Blizzard that buried Winnipeg and led to Flood of the Century began 25 years ago today

People in southern Manitoba are wading through puddles as the spring melt continues after one of the snowiest winters on record — but it’s nothing compared to what happened 25 years ago.

In April 1997, the streets and alleys were just as wet as they are now. Warmer weather was starting to erase the crust of ice from the previous four months and giving way to the anticipation of patios and parks.

A Colorado Low had other plans for Manitoba.

The snow returned on April 5 that year and quickly intensified, locking the Red River Valley in a whiteout that lasted 24 hours, forcing people to abandon vehicles and sleep in airports, offices and even shopping centres.

WATCH | Winnipeggers clean up after the 1997 blizzard:

FROM THE VAULT: The 1997 blizzard aftermath

6 years ago

Duration 2:23

Winnipeggers clean up after the 1997 blizzard 2:23

Over the next 24 hours, the storm dropped 48 centimetres on Winnipeg and as much as 50 centimetres in other locations.

The previous record-holding blizzard in Manitoba hit the province in 1966 and left a paltry 38.1 centimetres in comparison.

During the 1997 storm, snowmobilers patrolled the streets to transport front-line health workers and aid in rescues.

Front-end loaders and plows were assigned to ambulances in order to clear a path through the drifts.

After about a week of February-like cold, milder spring temperatures returned. The snow grew wet and heavy, snapping power lines and caving in the roof of the Sears warehouse in Winnipeg.

The warmer weather set the stage for the Flood of the Century, as the runoff from melting snow more than doubled the normal spring levels.

As the Red River breached its banks and spread across the Red River Valley, water began to engulf roads and fields. On April 23, the province ordered a massive evacuation of communities in the flood path.

Thousands of Manitobans were led out of their communities by the military, heading to Winnipeg, Steinbach and Selkirk — anywhere that stood a chance of not being flooded.

That inundation caused more than $500 million in damage. A total of 28,000 people who had to be temporarily relocated were left with the experience forever filed in their memories.

Blizzard shuts down Winnipeg in 1997

29 minutes ago

Duration 1:36

Exactly 25 years ago today, Manitobans woke up to a whopping snowstorm. It was the worst recorded blizzard snowfall in Winnipeg in a century, surpassing one in 1966 that left 38.1 cm of snow. 1:36

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