Image: Destroyed home in icy river
John Woods  /  AP
A building is carried down the Red River by high water and ice in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Wednesday. The Canadian city's floodway was put into operation to help prevent flooding.
updated 4/9/2009 10:16:11 AM ET 2009-04-09T14:16:11

Thick, stubborn ice has increased the threat of flooding over the next few days as this city braces for a higher than expected Red River crest, officials said Thursday.

Authorities predicted water levels could rise to 21.5 feet — 2.5 feet higher than they announced Wednesday because of an increased possibility of ice jams. Ice jams have already clogged drainage systems and reduced the effectiveness of floodway channels over the past few weeks.

"We're dealing with an unprecedented situation. The unusual combination of high flows with persistent ice cover and ice jams is raising river levels within Winnipeg higher than previously forecast, especially in the southern portion of the city," said Steve Aston, emergency measures minister for Manitoba province.

Authorities said further substantial ice run into the floodway channel may create emergency conditions in vulnerable areas of Winnipeg.

Aston said excavators and bulldozer equipment have been deployed to the area to help relieve the ice build up. The floodway gates have also been raised again for the second day in a row to stabilize river levels in the city to 20 feet.

The same crest caused a state of emergency in Fargo, N.D., last month, but was not nearly as high when it arrived north of the border Thursday.

Winnipeg on Wednesday raised its flood gates to divert water into the Red River Floodway, a huge ditch that carries water around the city.

Although the north-flowing Red River has not risen in the province to the crest of up to 43 feet seen in Fargo, N.D., over the past few weeks, a lot of farmland in southern Manitoba has been inundated.

One of the hardest-hit areas is near the small community of St. Jean Baptiste.

"Well, we're kind of used to flooding around this area," farmer Eric Sabourin said with a chuckle, keeping his humor despite having two-thirds of his fields turned into a lake.

He said flooding hadn't been as bad as he first feared and his home was safe.

Other communities appeared ready for the river's crest, with sandbagging nearly complete and temporary dikes put up around vulnerable areas.

Most residents of the flood-prone Roseau River First Nation near the U.S. border stayed at home, encircled by a dike.

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