1950 Red River flood

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1950 Red River flood
DateApril 15–June 12, 1950
LocationWahpeton - Breckenridge
Fargo - Moorhead
Grand Forks - East Grand Forks
Oslo, Minnesota
Pembina, North Dakota
Winnipeg, Manitoba
DeathsCanada: 3[1]
United States: 5[2]
Property damage$600 million -$1 billion

The 1950 Red River flood was a devastating flood that took place along the Red River in The Dakotas and Manitoba from April 15 to June 12, 1950. Damage was particularly severe in the city of Winnipeg and its environs, which were inundated on May 5, also known as Black Friday to some residents.[3]

An estimated 70,000–100,000 residents had to be evacuated, and four of eleven bridges were destroyed. In that year, the Red River reached its highest level since 1861 and flooded most of the Red River Valley, more than 1,400 km2 (550 sq mi). One man died, and property losses due to the flood were estimated at more than $600 million to one billion.

To prevent and reduce future damage, the government constructed the Red River Floodway, which was completed in 1968. It has been estimated to have prevented more than $100 billion (CAD) in cumulative flood damage.


A two-storey concrete and red brick fire hall. The front of the hall has three large doors for vehicles, one regular door, and two windows.
The St. Vital Fire Hall in Elm Park sheltered evacuees during the flood.
An orange-and-white painted metal railroad boxcar.
Portable power plant used by St. Boniface Hospital during flood relief efforts.[4]

Although seasonal flooding was common, this flood surpassed the others. The north-flowing Red River was fed by flows resulting from melting of heavy snows in the winter and runoff from heavy rains in the spring. Eight dikes gave way and flooded much of Winnipeg, turning an estimated 600 square miles (1,600 km2) of farmland in the area into an enormous lake. A total of more than 1,400 km2 (550 sq mi) in the Red River Valley were flooded, from Emerson to 60 miles (97 km) north to Greater Winnipeg. The depth of the flood waters on the farmland was between 2–6 feet (0.61–1.83 m).[5] The city turned to the Canadian Army and the Red Cross for help.

In the end, four of eleven bridges in the city were destroyed and nearly 100,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes and businesses. This was the largest evacuation in Canadian history until the 1979 Mississauga train derailment. In Winnipeg there was one fatality; property damage was severe, with losses estimated at between $600 million[1] and more than a billion dollars.[3]

As a result of the widespread damage, the government built the Red River Floodway, to divert flood waters from Winnipeg to more distant portions of the river. The project was completed in 1968 and has been used 20 times. From 1950 to about 1997, it was derogatorily referred to as "Duff's Ditch", after the premier (Dufferin Roblin) that built the floodway. It is estimated to have prevented more than $100 billion (CAD) in cumulative flood damage.[6] The Floodway was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2000, and is considered an outstanding engineering achievement both in terms of function and effects.[7]

United States[edit]

Flooding in the Red River Valley of the United States resulted in five deaths.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "A city submerged: Winnipeg and the flood of 1950". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 1950-05-10. Retrieved 3 September 2006.
  2. ^ a b "Red River of the North Flooding - 1950". USGS. 2008-03-14. Archived from the original on 31 March 2009. Retrieved 1 April 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Winnipeg Flood - 1950". SOS! Canadian Disasters: Water. Library and Archives Canada. 2006-02-14. Retrieved 28 March 2009.
  4. ^ "Welcome to Saskrailmuseum.org". Sask Power Car. 2008-09-11. Archived from the original on 15 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
  5. ^ "Manitoba Flood/May, 1950"[permanent dead link], Manitoba Photos, 2005-2013; accessed 12 October 2016
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-05. Retrieved 2017-08-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Red River Floodway. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 10 June 2012.


External links[edit]