03/25/2013 09:28 EDT | Updated 05/25/2013 05:12 EDT

Manitoba communities ramp up flood prep ahead of forecast

Manitobans will get a clearer picture this week of what the Red River could look like this spring.

Provincial officials are expected to release their flood forecast on Tuesday.

Fargo, N.D., has already released its flood forecast. The U.S. National Weather Service said there is a 50 per cent chance the city could see one of the worst floods in its history.

Jay Doering is a civil engineer and flood expert at the University of Manitoba.

He said Fargo’s forecast doesn’t necessarily mean Manitoba is in trouble.

“Fargo is at the head waters of the water shed and what could be a significant quantity of water for them isn’t necessarily a significant quantity of water on the Canadian side,” said Doering.

Last week, provincial officials said a rapid melt combined with heavy rain could increase flooding along the Red River this spring.

“The things that exacerbate flood conditions are warm weather where melting happens very quickly,” said Doering.

“Rain itself carries a lot of heat and it’s very effective at increasing the melt.”

Doering said how fast things melt will have a significant impact on the risk of flooding along the Red River.

Manitoba towns prepare

The town of Selkirk is ramping up its flood prevention efforts this year.

Selkirk Mayor Larry Johansson said flood tubes and extra clay for diking have been brought in this year.

“We’re not putting anything up yet. We can put them up very soon,” said Johannson.

“We’re ready in case we need them.”

He said the city is particularly concerned about protecting to seniors’ buildings and a museum located near the waterfront.

Johannson said ice along the Red River has some residents concerned it might jam.

“It’s thick. Last year it was 20 inches thick. This year it’s over 30 inches thick,” he said.

In 2009, ice jams nearly flooded several waterfront buildings in Selkirk.

Selkirk isn’t the only community preparing.

St. Clements began assembling a sandbagging machine that arrived in parts in the town on Friday.

Wayne Arseny is the mayor of Emerson. He said the community is well protected, but he’s concerned about losing highways in the area.

“If we get to 1997 levels then of course I-29, Highway 75 — great portions disappear, and we don't want to see that," said Arseny.

Souris Mayor Darryl Jackson said much depends on the melt and the level of rain for his town.

“What really killed us two years ago was the rain that started in late April, May and the first two weeks of June,” said Jackson.