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Chapter 16: Water Resources

16.48: Flooding in Central Winnipeg in 1950

In the 1950 flood on the Red River Plain “almost 1,700 km2 along the river were inundated and all towns were evacuated…. In Winnipeg 10,500 homes were flooded and more than 100,000 people relocated, despite the seven-week diking operation by thousands of military and civilian personnel…. Direct costs of flood fighting and damage claims were about $30 million, and true costs may have exceeded $100 million.”[i] Shown here is the situation in central Winnipeg on May 7, 1950. Winnipeg’s three major rivers are visible. The Red River 1 meanders northwards through the city; water can be seen rushing under the Provencher Bridge 2 and a railway bridge to the north 3. The Red is joined from the west by the Assiniboine, lighter in tone 4, and crossed by Bridge of the Old Forts 5 and two railway bridges further downstream 6, 7. The Seine River enters the Red from the south; its channel though is visible only near the southern edge of the photo 8. Nearer the Red floodwaters—light grey-toned—obscur the channel 9. It is in this area and south of the Red River west of the junction of the Seine and Red 10 that flooding is most widespread.

The light grey-toned floodwaters cover mostly parks, for example along the Seine 11, Whittier Park 12, Stephen Juba Park 13, and Norquay Community Centre 14; and industrial areas, for example at the Forks 15 and the northern part of Point Douglas 16, as well as along the Seine River 17. However, some residential areas close to the river channels are affected, for example, on the west side of the Red River west of Point Douglas 18, the area west of Whittier Park 19, and on the east side of the Seine 20.

Winnipeg’s main roads are easily identified; Portage Avenue 21 intersects Main Street 22 west of the Red. The western approaches to Provencher Bridge 23 are flooded as is Provencher Boulevard where it crosses the Seine 24. Both CP 25 and CN 26 railway lines can be seen; as they are built on embankments, they are not flooded.

The photo illustrates the usefulness of air photos in documenting past conditions. The rail yards at the Forks 27 have been replaced by a park area (see figures 12.19 and 12.20), and only the western of the two railway bridges across the Assiniboine is still in use. The reservoir in the east 28 is now abandoned. Although it was close to flooded land, floodwater did not get into the municipal water supply, sparing Winnipeg a much greater disaster than what occurred. The Redwood Bridge 29 and the Louise Bridge 30 were in existence but there was no Disraeli Bridge which now exists between the two 31. St. Boniface Basilica, cross-shaped in plan 32, was destroyed by fire in 1968 and never replaced in its original form.

At the time the photo was taken wind was from the southeast, evidenced by the northwestward drift of smoke plumes in the eastern part of the photo 33.

Figure 16.48: Flooding in Central Winnipeg in 1950

Figure 16.48: Flooding in Central Winnipeg in 1950

Figure 16.48

Vertical air photograph: A12445-146

Flight height: 8,900 feet; lens focal length: 6 inches

Scale: 1:16,300 (approx.)

Date: May 7, 1950

Location: Township 11; Range 3E

Map sheets: 1:250,000 62H Winnipeg

                    1:50,000 62H/5 Roland


[i] Rannie, W. F. op. cit. 1996, 283.