Top ten weather stories for 2005: story two

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2. Manitoba's Worst Widespread Flooding Ever

Manitoba knows flooding. Almost every spring there is concern about the flood threat from winter's melting snowpack and heavy April showers. In 2005, the province experienced its most widespread flooding on record. But what was truly remarkable was a rare summer flood as a result of torrential rains that fell repeatedly through June and July. It was a matter of too much rain too fast and over too many days. Summer thunderstorms were widespread, intense and frequent, arriving in bands 20 minutes apart that often tracked across the same ground. Flooding extended from boundary to border as one downpour after another filled Manitoba's small and mighty rivers and lakes. Waterways recorded their highest summer flows on record. In the north, the huge Churchill River hit its all-time high river level. In the south, the Red River in downtown Winnipeg rose to 6.1 m on July 3 - the second highest river level recorded in the city since major flood control works began in 1969. Nearly 200 local authorities requested disaster assistance and 22 municipalities declared a state of emergency. Over 5,000 private flood damage claims were filed, not including agricultural losses, and totalled more than $50 million. The number of claims was the second highest on record, topped only by those from the flood of 1997.

Manitoba had never before seen so much accumulated rainwater. Standing water extended over the largest geographic area on record. Manitoba's version of the monsoon season came from a series of intense low-pressure systems often arriving from south of the border. The most severe storm came on June 1 when intense thunderstorms and accompanying tornadoes raked the western half of the province near Melita and Brandon and northeastward towards Riding Mountain National Park. Officially, between 90 and 130 mm of rain fell but there was also a report from an unofficial gauge of an unbelievable total of 230 mm over June 1-2. The rains did not let up and by July 15, several locations saw totals up to four times their usual fall over the first six weeks of summer.

While the deluge created headaches for city residents, it was more devastating for rural folk. Parts of paved highways were under water for days on end. There were more road closures at one time than the province had ever seen - even in winter! Pasture land resembled rice paddies and crop lands featured whitecaps. Some of the best farmland in Canada was too soggy to farm. Manitoba Agriculture estimated that one million square kilometres were lost to the waters - more than one quarter of the province's farmland. Old timers couldn't remember so many fields going unseeded. Even worse, 2005 was the fourth year of the last seven that Manitoba farmers have not been able to seed a full crop. Projected losses approached $350 million, with a further adverse rippling effect on the provincial economy of $1.8 billion.

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