The floods in Manitoba


The biggest flood ever recorded on the Red River basin occurred in 1826. The level of water in Fort Garry, located in southern Manitoba, rose 2,7 meters in 24 hours. Whole houses were carried away by the current while the maximal rate of flow was estimated at 6 400 cubic metres per second. It apparently took over a month for the waters to recede from the land. The probability for such a flood to re-occur is of 1 in 667 years.


Flooding is a regular occurrence in the Red River basin. Many major floods took place in the past. The worst floods of the XIXth century were in 1826, in 1852 and in 1861; in the XXth century they happened in 1950, 1979, and 1997.

Red River's highest flood levels between 1800 and 1999 (Red River's rate of flow at the Redwood bridge, Manitoba's Department of Natural Ressources.)
Rank Year Rate of flow
(m3/s)
Comment

1 1826 6400 est. A flood that disrupted the lives of the settlers of the new village of Selkirk, now Winnipeg. The flood of 1776, although not well documented, would have been more important than the one in 1826.
2 1852 4700 est. This flood occurred only 26 years after the 1826 flood.
3 1997 4600 The biggest flood in 150 years. Its rate of flow is slightly lower than the 1852 flood and approximately higher than the 1950 flood by a half.
4 1861 3500 est. The third flood in importance in the 19th century.
5 1950 3060 This flood was disastrous for Winnipeg and the Red River valley, thus resulting in the construction of a diversion canal in the 1960's.
6 1979 3030 Flood just slightly weaker than the one in 1950, but not as devastating for the surrounding areas.
7 1996 2960 The second in importance from the three main floods which hit the area between 1996 and 1999.
8 1974 2720
9 1966 2500
10 1916 2430 2430 Last important flood in 32 years, the next one will occur in 1948.
11 1987 2340
12 1970 2280
13 1904 2210
14 1969 2210 The waters of this flood were the first to go through the Red River's diversion canal around Winnipeg.
15 1999 2180 Third flood of importance in between 1996 and 1999.
16 1948 2120 First important flood since 1916. The highest peaks in the rate of flow occurred in the following fifty years.
17 1956 1970
18 1960 1970
19 1892 1960
20 1897 1950



In the course of the last century, a marked increase in the spring's rate of flow has been witnessed in the Red River basin. Between 1892 and 1945, only two rates of over 2 000 cubic metres per second were recorded. When between 1945 and 1999, eleven occurrences were recorded.

In spite of this area's vulnerability to floods, the fertile land, the abundant rainfall and the flat clay terrain still entice farmers to the Red River basin. Even though it is risky to be established in a flood plain, there is a multiplication of dwelling areas along the Red River and the Assiniboine River. Today, over 70% of the 1,1 million Manitobans live in the Red River basin.