Calgary Floods – A 100 Year Event or Harbinger of Things to Come?

Posted by Alan Zunec on Saturday, July 6th, 2013 at 12:53pm.

The Calgary Stampede has never been cancelled. Will this be the year? Mayor Naheed Nenshi says no, despite the silt and mud left behind by raging flood waters this past weekend. What about Calgary’s downtown core? City officials expect that to be up and running by maybe the middle of this week. The business district was hit hard by those same flood waters and like the stampede grounds, is awash in muck. As far as public transit systems, officials have to check out the light rail tunnels on Calgary’s south side which were flooded out. Buses may end up being an alternative transportation source for this part of the city.

It’s a good thing the Calgary Flames aren’t due to start playing for a few months; the Saddledome suffered a similar fate. Water gushed in, flooding the gently curved stadium up to the tenth row. The Conservative Party was scheduled to host a convention this coming weekend, but that’s now been postponed. But take note, the City of Calgary’s Municipal Golf Courses are opened, albeit some with a limited number of holes in play. Considering that many of these venues are along the riverbank, that’s quite an achievement. Just bring cash or a credit card; the ATM machines may not be working.

We haven’t even touched on the residential damage. Elbow Park, Sunnyside and Bowness have no working sewer systems. Elbow Park, an affluent community, was flooded out while the waters showed equal disdain for the seniors in the more modest Bridgeland neighborhood. As of Sunday many evacuees were allowed to return home though electrical power was still spotty. All save four of the Calgary Public Library’s branches are open and checking out books by hand. The IT check out system is down. Library goers are advised to refrain from bringing books back, they can’t check them in. Late fees and water damage fees will be waived.

So how do you clean up what amounts to a 100 year flood? Calgary has an Emergency Management Agency that has the power to commandeer assets from companies during a state of emergency. Construction equipment like diggers, back-hoes and vacuum trucks can be taken for use in such an emergency. The city has its own fleet of street sweepers but you can bet private ones will be out in force as well.

The smaller town of High River was hit even harder than Calgary. Half of the town’s 13,000 residents were flooded out and at least four people confirmed dead. No one is allowed into town except for emergency personnel, backed up by military forces. Searchers are going house to house to check for survivors and to counsel those that refused to leave.

Canmore, an upscale mountain community, also suffered severe damage and at present has no water or gas. The water has receded but it will be some time before things are back to normal. Medicine Hat was expected to flood sometime Saturday night, with evacuation orders coming that same morning. Lethbridge escaped the worst of it with no evacuations deemed necessary.

The irony is that a World Conference on Disaster Management was scheduled to begin right after the floods in Toronto. The conference went ahead but without the Calgary delegation who were at home dealing with the real thing. Any thoughts on what the main topic of conversation will be?

Hopefully we don't have to experience a flood of this nature again any time soon, for now let's just enjoy the summer and the Stampede season, and get our lives back to normal.

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