'As ready as we can be': Municipal officials meet in Brandon to discuss flood preparations

Municipal officials from across western Manitoba are gathering in Brandon today for a seminar on flood preparedness ahead of the spring melt.

And one southwestern Manitoba mayor predicts the message for municipalities will be that the risk of flood still depends on the melt in western Manitoba, but that municipalities should prepare. 

Today's seminar is one of three provincial flood officials have planned, with others to take place in Morden and Selkirk. They come at a time when municipal officials are keeping a close eye on rivers and other waterways. 

"I think the potential is definitely there for something quite similar to 2011," Souris, Man. Mayor Darryl Jackson told CBC News.

As the Souris River swelled in 2011, more than 800,000 sandbags were filled in Souris, according to Jackson. Nearly 400 Shilo-based soldiers joined volunteers to raise and reinforce dikes.

Permanent diking now in place for this year means even if the town sees flooding similar to 2011, only a handful of properties should be at risk this time around.

It's unclear at this point how severe this year's flooding will be. The province says the weather forecast, flood forecast and recovery from any flooding are all up for discussion with provincial officials at Wednesday's seminar, which is not open to the public.

The province's last flood outlook in February pegged the flood risk as major along the Red River, Roseau River, Souris River and the lower portion of the Assiniboine River.

"I think we're as ready as we can be for those types of eventualities," Jackson said. "I think we're prepared."

Still, even though Jackson believes the dikes will protect Souris in case of a flood this year, he isn't letting his guard down. 

"It's always unnerving, every spring, because you know there are so many variables at play that can change things quite quickly," he said.

"The longer the cold stays, the greater the chances once you get into April of a real spike up into 18 or 20 degrees, which would be deadly," Jackson added. "We need a slow melt going forward and we don't need any more precipitation."

Another flood outlook is expected at the end of March.