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Calgary Herald Fri Jun 21 2013 Page: A3 Section: News Byline: Clara Ho Source: Calgary Herald
As thousands of Calgarians were forced to flee their homes Thursday, residents of High River, Canmore and other southern Alberta communities reeled from the damage caused by a disastrous flood that ravaged residences, swept away vehicles and left countless people stranded. With Environment Canada estimating that another 30 to 60 millimetres of rain will fall in some regions today, officials are bracing themselves for the disaster to grow. The flooding, which began early Thursday, forced more than a dozen municipalities to declare local states of emergency, and later issue mandatory evacuation orders, including in Calgary where up to 100,000 residents were expected to be displaced. By Thursday evening, as many as 20 Calgary neighbourhoods were told to evacuate, and more were anticipated throughout the night. The Calgary Zoo had to move animals from the Eurasia and South America exhibits to higher ground within the facility, said spokeswoman Laurie Skene. Water was creeping up the parking lot near the administration building and staff members were forced to move operations to another building, she said. Several Calgary schools will also be closed today. Officials predicted late Thursday that the Elbow River would peak overnight, reaching levels three times higher than what was seen during the floods of 2005, which claimed three lives, caused $400 million in damage and cost more than $165 million in disaster relief. "This is not going to be an incident of hours, this is going to be an incident of days," said Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency. Canmore was among the first communities to start issuing evacuation orders, with residents living south of the pedestrian bridge over the swollen Cougar Creek ordered to leave. The rain also forced road closures of major highways in Canmore, as well as in Banff and Kananaskis, with a mudslide blocking traffic on Highway 1 west of the Mount Norquay exit.
Flooding soon swept through High River, one of the hardest-hit communities, where a townwide evacuation was ordered and more than 150 people scrambled to rooftops and waited to be rescued. Help came by way of military helicopters, boats and bulldozers. Even the town's evacuation centre flooded, forcing evacuees to move to nearby Nanton. In the Longview area, STARS air ambulance was called to aid with the search and rescue of a man and woman stranded near the Highwood River. STARS spokesman Cam Heke said the woman, who had been standing on a trailer, was nowhere in sight by the time the helicopter arrived. She remains unaccounted for, said the RCMP at press time. The man, who was standing on a flatbed downstream from the trailer, was located and rescued by a helicopter from another company. Meanwhile, close to 600 residents were forced to flee from Bragg Creek, west of Calgary, where even two Cochrane firefighters needed rescuing. They were en route to a washed-out home where two residents were waiting for help in a tree, when their rescue boat tipped over and forced them to clamber up the tree as well. After a mayday alert, two Rocky View firefighters were deployed to rescue the foursome. Turner Valley residents also had a scare after a cascade of trees and mud from the flooding ruptured a Legacy Oil and Gas sour gas pipeline, prompting the province to issue a critical hazardous materials alert. Fortunately, only a small amount of the toxic hydrogen sulphide was released into the air and was quickly contained, and many of the homes in the affected area had already been evacuated previously due to the flood. In Sundre, half of the town's residents were forced from their homes and the hospital was put on evacuation notice. Flash floods also befell areas in the most southern parts of the province, including Lethbridge County and Crowsnest Pass. Late last night, the City of Red Deer also declared a local state of emergency. Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement expressing his thoughts and prayers to those affected, and also indicated the federal government is offering to help in any way.
"Canadian Armed Forces assets, including a Cormorant and Griffon helicopter, have been deployed to the area to assist the Alberta Provincial Emergency team with rescue and evacuation efforts," Harper said in the statement. "We hope for a speedy end to the flooding and return to safe conditions as soon as possible. We remain ready to provide additional assistance if requested by provincial authorities." Though the flood seemed to catch Albertans by surprise, officials insist they were prepared. "We weren't caught flatfooted," said Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths Thursday. "It is mother nature and things change very quickly and we do the best we can to adapt." Premier Alison Redford added the government's emergency preparedness system had worked properly. "There's no question the alerts were in place, the information has been available and that information has been helpful," Redford said. "We needed to be able to get people out and we did." But Liberal MLA David Swann, whose Calgary Mountain View riding is under threat of flooding, said the Tory government must answer for a lack of preparation and an inadequate response to Thursday's events. "My only sense is that we're now at a crisis," Swann said. With files from Calgary Herald staff firstname.lastname@example.org
'You can't believe the damage here'; Thousands of homes feared submerged in High River
Calgary Herald Fri Jun 21 2013 Page: A5 Section: News Byline: Stephane Massinon And David Fraser Source: Calgary Herald; With Files From Bryan Weismiller And Clara Ho, Calgary Herald
Floods battered and wreaked havoc on High River on Thursday with early estimates of catastrophic damage as the Highwood River rose to unprecedented levels. The entire town of 13,000 was ordered evacuated - an effort that led to people being rescued by boats and helicopters and even combines and canoes. According to the RCMP, more than 150 people had to be rescued from rooftops in High River after the town called for a town-wide evacuation because of "extremely dangerous and rapid flooding." At 1: 05 p.m. the province issued an emergency evacuation alert and first told people to head to the recreation centre, but when that building also flooded they were re-directed to Nanton. The extent of the damage is unclear and town officials provided only sporadic updates on social media. There were also power outages and cellphone service was also interrupted so updates from the town were limited. Residents still in town estimate that thousands of homes could be flooded. RCMP Sgt. Patricia Neely said 150 people have been rescued from rooftops. "This is a lot more significant than what we usually see. To have 150 people that were forced to roofs shows the speed and how quickly this flood came through," said Neely. Three military aircraft were being called in, she said. "We are evacuating the whole town ... they are obviously working on getting everybody rescued." One person in the Longview area is missing, said Neely. "At this time we do not believe we have any fatalities." In the community of Montrose - a new community on the south side of High River - more than 200 people were surrounded by water and were originally told they would be ferried by boat but
have since been told it was too dangerous. They are stranded on the highest ground in the community and were told to hunker down for the night. Mark Kent, one of the residents, said they are completely stranded and cut off. His house is flooded. He said "half of High River" homes are flooded. "The water came rushing in so fast," he said. "Helicopters are flying people off rooftops right now," he said. The situation is much more dire than the major floods in 2005, he said. "(The flood in) 2005 doesn't even compare to what this is; that was just a puddle compared to what this is," said Kent. Wayne Goodman, another Montrose resident in High River, spent part of the day in a canoe and figures he and his brother helped rescue a dozen people, including children. "Nobody was prepared for this," said Goodman. "The system didn't work. It failed." He estimated a couple thousand homes are flooded. "It's just a shame. You can't believe the damage here," said Goodman. In addition to the dozens of cars that were swept away, there was limited to no access to emergency centres. Many people are angry the town was not better prepared, including Teri Mans who watched as her diabetic husband struggled through waist-deep water and strong currents after being stranded in his truck on 1st Street. "They started sandbagging, but by then it was too late. I am very angry," said Mans. "I realize it is a state of emergency, but this town needs to get better prepared living this close to the Highwood River. It's ridiculous." "None of the emergency services will get him. They told me to leave him, which is crazy," said Mans. There were numerous road closures in town, including parts of Highway 2. The emergency department of the High River Hospital was closed and patients on the first floor were moved to higher levels. The building is not accessible by road.
The MD of Foothills, including Okotoks, High River and Black Diamond, declared a state of emergency at 9: 20 a.m. Earlier in the day, officials from High River declared a local state of emergency at 7: 04 a.m. because the Highwood River was rising quickly and overflowing its banks. Forecasters said on Thursday morning the river could crest between noon and early evening. At the time, High River spokeswoman Joan Botkin said the situation was "urgent" and would be worse than the flooding it received in 2005. "If the river crests it will be significant flooding in the town of High River," she said. She could not be reached for further updates. In Okotoks, a flood watch was issued for the Sheep River and it was expected to crest late Thursday or early Friday. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for Elizabeth Street, McRae Street and North Railway Street in Okotoks. The Government of Alberta has also issued a critical alert for overland flooding in Black Diamond, which saw significant flooding. Officials were also concerned about a sour gas leak in Turner Valley which released lifethreatening gases, but officials say the situation has been contained to the gas plant in town, Barry Williamson, a town councillor and spokesman, said any excess gas is being flared, and crews are monitoring the situation. email@example.com
Homes collapse into raging Canmore creek
Calgary Herald Fri Jun 21 2013 Page: A4 Section: News Byline: Natalie Stechyson And Tanya Foubert Source: Calgary Herald; With Files From Jason Van Rassel
Canmore was devastated by floods Thursday, with roads washed out and houses washed away by surging waters, and no end in sight with the forecast calling for still more rain. The mountain town was among the first of more than a dozen communities in southern Alberta to declare a state of emergency after rain pounded the area. By evening, many town residents had either been evacuated or opened their homes to those forced out. As of 3 p.m. Thursday, Environment Canada reported 126.1 millimetres of rain fell during a 36hour period in the Bow Valley. Another 30 to 60 mm was forecast for overnight, with the rainfall warning for Canmore extended to Friday morning. The rain-deluged Cougar Creek cut off the Eagle Terrace subdivision, and a significant portion of the town continues to deal with a mandatory evacuation order. Many homes along the creek now have significant damage - with reports of some of them being swept away - as a result of the erosion from stormwater forced down the mountainside. Shirley Kine lives three blocks away from Cougar Creek. She was told Thursday afternoon to pack a bag for at least three days and get on a bus to safety. On her ride to higher ground, Kine passed the local arena, which she said was "half gone." "It is scary to know that you could be sitting on your rooftop by midnight tonight if you didn't take that evacuation route," she said from the home of a friend where she and her son have taken refuge. She's been monitoring social media and the news, and said it's been frightening to watch her friends' homes on Cougar Creek get washed away. "I know five people that are about to lose their home in the next few hours," Kine said. "I've lived here for 24 years and I've never seen it like this before." The Palliser area of Canmore, on the east side of the Trans-Canada Highway, was also evacuated as a precaution. Although many parts of town weren't under immediate flood threat, they were experiencing other problems.
Officials said power and gas were knocked out throughout town and sewage had backed up into some homes. Earlier in the afternoon, Town of Canmore spokesperson Sally Caudill said all residents east of the creek were being bused out before the only access - a bridge over Cougar Creek along Elk Run Boulevard - also succumbed to the floodwaters. "We are evacuating that entire area, including the industrial area - everyone should get out," Caudill said. "It is largely because what is happening over there is super unpredictable and that area has the potential to be completely cut off." Water was cut off to that side of town and Alberta Health issued a boil water advisory for all areas east of Cougar Creek and in the Elk Run industrial area. The municipality was making plans to house those evacuated either in hotel rooms or at one of two evacuation centres. It also issued a plea to residents to stay away from Cougar Creek due to the danger. The Trans-Canada and CP Rail line have been washed out by Cougar Creek. Carrot Creek, just inside the east gates of Banff National Park, is also washed out. The Three Sisters Parkway in Canmore was closed. Cheryl Graham lives on the west side of Cougar Creek. As of 7 p.m., her power had been out for 11 hours, and her husband - a firefighter - was trapped in Calgary because of the highway closure. However, Graham said she's in far better shape than those on the other side of the creek. "It's quite a mess here," said Graham, who opened her home to a few families whose houses were flooded. The damage is just "devastating," said Dr. Tracy Thomson. "People are scared and anxious, she said. "We're isolated. We can't go west to Banff. We can't go east to Calgary. And then in Canmore, the creeks and rivers have severed every possible lifeline between the communities." Thomson and her children have stockpiled water and now all they can do is wait, she said. "We're preparing for the worst." firstname.lastname@example.org
Up to 100,000 flee homes
Calgary Herald Fri Jun 21 2013 Page: B1 Section: News Byline: Trevor Howell, Tamara Gignac, Gwendolyn Richards and Sherri Zickefoose Source: Calgary Herald
Mandatory evacuation notices were issued to up to 100,000 people in 20 neighbourhoods along low-lying areas of the Elbow and Bow Rivers on Thursday, as city officials cautioned that more communities will probably be told to pack up and leave as flood waters were expected to rise overnight. By early afternoon, residents of Mission, Elbow Park, Stanley Park, Roxboro, Rideau and Discovery Ridge were told to leave their homes and bring sufficient supplies to last a week as the city declared a state of local emergency in anticipation of flooding three times as severe as 2005. Later in the afternoon, Ingelwood, Erlton, Victoria Park and Cliff Bungalow were added to the list, and in the early evening residents in the low-lying areas of Sunnyside and Bowness were asked to be out of their homes by 7 p.m. At press time, residents in Eau Claire, Chinatown, Downtown, Montgomery, Bridgeland, Westmount and Beltline were on high alert. While the city hopes many evacuees will stay with family and friends, negotiations with businesses and shopping malls continued to find places to shelter people. Emergency centres were also set up at Southland Leisure and Acadian Rec centres as well as Centre Street Church for those without a place. Sunnyside residents Sally and Mike McIsaac planned to spend Thursday night sleeping in the hallway on the fourth floor of their apartment building, which they lamented as reeking of a “really badly kept public washroom.” Standing outside in the rain with packed bags, they looked away from the Bow River and toward the police officer with a bull-horn, instructing them to find higher ground. “I have no family here,” Sally said, through tears. “I have no friends here. Everybody is in Ontario. “I need a place to stay right now.” To Mike, the worst part was the lack of notice he feels they received. “It’s nobody’s fault,” he said. “But … had they told me hours ago I probably could’ve got somebody from my work to pick us up and get us out of here. “But 10 minutes? By then they wouldn’t let people in unless they lived here.”
In June of 2005, one of the city’s worst flood years on record, heavy rain caused flood damage to about 40,000 homes, and 1,500 Calgarians were evacuated. But city officials warn the current flooding situation poses a much more serious threat. Peak flows downstream of the Elbow were expected to crest sometime after 3 a.m. early Friday, city officials say, and water levels aren’t expected to subside until Saturday afternoon. “Depending on the extent of flooding we experience overnight, there may be areas in the city where people aren’t going to be able to get into until the weekend,” said Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency. Flooding concerns prompted the Calgary Board of Education to close six schools near the river, including Elbow Park, Sunnyside, Colonel Walker, Rideau Park, Piitoayis Family and Discovering Choices Downtown. The Separate School Board also issued a list of closures including St. Mary’s High School, St. Monica School and Our Lady of Lourdes School. City officials also closed the Calgary Zoo by midday. Mayor Naheed Nenshi, speaking from Toronto on Thursday before boarding a flight back to Calgary, said the city is taking every precaution to deal with a serious flooding situation. “We’re looking at flow rates significantly higher than 2005,” he said. “While we have more resources than we did then, it’s quite possible the height of the river and the water will overcome defences like berms and sandbags, and we must be as prepared as we can.” Residents living along the rivers watch anxiously as levels rose rapidly throughout the day. Rideau resident Marianne Kasper watched anxiously Thursday as the water crept higher. She said she’s annoyed with the city for not sandbagging her home, which officials promised they would do following the floods eight years ago. Kasper said she was told it was futile because the levels are expected to be much higher this time. “They’ve given up,” she said. Daughter Natalie Stevenson went searching for sandbags Thursday morning but there were none to be found. Neither want to leave, but they plan to obey the evacuation order. The family had to renovate their basement after the 2005 flood. This time, Kasper said, they have no insurance coverage. She spent much of Thursday moving things off the floor, assembling important documents and emptying the fridge and freezer – something learned from the last round of floods. “I realize there’s no hope. I’m going to flood. I’m resigned,” she said.
Mission resident Dolores Kraft also remembers the flood of 2005. At the time, she lived in an apartment on 26th Avenue S.W. that backed onto the Elbow River. “It was horrendous,” recalled the 80-year-old. Water filled their garage to the ceiling and the couple spent a month living with their daughter. Kraft now lives in another building – but it too backs onto the river. With an evacuation order in effect, she says she’s worried but prepared. “My daughter called and said, ‘I’ve got a room ready.’ “
Nowhere to run from wrath of storm, flood
Calgary Herald Fri Jun 21 2013 Page: B2 Section: City & Region Byline: Wendy Dudley Dateline: MILLARVILLE Source: For The Calgary Herald
Uprooted trees jam against my fence posts, the swirling waters of the flooded creek threaten to carry the entire barbed wire barrier downstream. The creek, normally the width of a ditch but now as wide as the Bow River, belligerently beats through the bush, pushing aside anything in its way: Boulders, banks, sheds, machinery, bridges, power poles, homes. My livestock - four donkeys and a mule - are jittery. They refuse to leave the small three-stall shed they moved to after their pole shed flooded. The swollen rivers have taken over the streets of my nearby towns - Turner Valley, Black Diamond and High River. I am tuned in to the only television station I get, but its signal is weak because of the wind. I am in a dead cellphone zone. At least I have a battery radio. And if this isn't enough of a nightmare, there is now an erupted sour gas pipeline only 20 minutes from me. I am shut inside, not knowing where the plume is or where it is moving. I am surrounded and swamped by disaster. Every 10 minutes, a beeping radio emergency signal tells me how bad it is out there; my entire municipality - Foothills MD 31 - is in a flash-flood emergency zone. People living along waterways are being told to pack up and leave. The foothills are taking the brunt of this massive system. If I am on edge now, it is just an overflow of what I experienced as this system swept in Wednesday night, contorting my aspens, tossing branches like kindling, the thunder and lightning igniting the skies. When the blustery drizzle began, I went to the barn, putting some hay out and cleaning it so the livestock would have dry ground for the night. It didn't seem that bad - yet. But within five minutes, I was trapped. Saplings bent to the ground, the lightning and thunder cracked and slammed. There was no escape.
Lucy mule tore inside, trembling, but as at the bullets of rain pounded the tin roof, she bolted back outside, racing down the hill to the shed where the rest of the herd was hunkered. As she galloped, her slick back was illuminated by lightning. I was screaming at her to hurry, to dance through the ground currents. Now I was alone, no other heartbeat with me. Just my own racing pulse. I couldn't escape. The fork and sheet lighting flashed from every direction, the thunder bellowing in rolling waves as the rain drilled holes in the soil. The earth shook. I crouched low to the ground, away from anything metal and away from the meshed windows and open door. I covered my ears against the deafening sound, the wind and rain tugging at the roof. Was this a tornado? Was I going to die? Stop it, I screamed to myself. This will surely pass. Do not create a negative charge in this electrical avalanche. Think positive. You are strong. This land, this crazy weather has shaped you, blessed you. Do not cave. I thought how the old cowboys said the only thing that truly scared them was being caught out in the open in an electrical thunderstorm. I now knew why. This is what causes horses to stampede, to do crazy things. This is what kills cattle who bunch up, terrified, along wire fence lines and then die from electrocution. I kept low, my feet together, and prayed that the lightning would strike the barn and travel to the ground through the metal siding. I took off my jacket with its metal snap buttons. I hoped the donkeys were not standing under the trees. Thank goodness they don't wear metal shoes. I thought of my friend Paul, living creekside in Millarville, his pastures plenty with lambs, calves and colts. Where was he? Had he already moved his stock? Ninety minutes had passed and I was exhausted. But there seemed to be a break. I counted. There was at least a minute between lightning strikes. I took deep breaths, spurred myself and then sprinted, thanking the Big Guy in the sky for giving me wings to fly. Now safe inside my home, I watch the destruction floating downstream at the bottom of the hill below my house. I still can't reach Paul. All the surrounding roads are closed.
In Millarville, people trapped in a tractor outside their farm are waiting for a helicopter or boat rescue. And yet, in this maelstrom, I am thankful - that my home is still above water, that my animals are OK. That so far, I have heard of no loss of life. Destroyed fences and broken dreams can be fixed.
Wendy Dudley is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer living on relatively high ground near Millarville
Province was not caught 'flatfooted,' Griffiths
Calgary Herald Fri Jun 21 2013 Page: A17 Section: News Byline: Darcy Henton And James Wood Dateline: EDMONTON Source: Calgary Herald
Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths said Thursday the provincial government was as prepared as it could be for the flooding that swept southern Alberta and he praised the rapid response by municipal officials. Although the government has not fully implemented all the recommendations of a 2006 flood mitigation report, the steps it has taken so far likely reduced the impact of the deluge that forced 12 communities to declare states of emergency, Griffiths said from the Provincial Operations Centre in Edmonton. "We weren't caught flatfooted," he said at a news conference before heading to High River. "It is Mother Nature and things change very quickly and we do the best we can to adapt." The provincial mitigation report made 18 recommendations in the wake of massive flooding in southern Alberta in 2005, including calls for the investment of $306 million in new infrastructure to limit flooding. It also called for mapping of flood-prone areas, particularly in urban communities, and restricting development in flood-prone regions. Alberta is still working with Ottawa and municipalities to implement the recommendations, Griffiths said. Under a federal-provincial agreement, Ottawa picks up 90 per cent of the cost of disaster relief. "We continue to encourage them that instead of ultimately paying the cost of the disaster, we need to continue to work together to come up with a plan to work on mitigation," he said. But Liberal MLA David Swann - whose Calgary Mountain View riding is under threat of flooding - said the Tory government must be held accountable for failing to heed the report, which wasn't fully released until 2012. "I don't think we've done a good job in preparing for more floods. We've allowed building on flood plains. I know specifically in High River, they didn't intervene since all kind of building has gone on since the '05 flooding on flood plains. And now they're in trouble again," Swann, taking a break from moving items in the basement of his Sunnyside home. "So I do have serious concerns about the lack of action in the province in some of the recognized areas that were at risk.
"My only sense is that we're now at a crisis." Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson said the government had reacted properly to Thursday's events and the first priority has to be ensuring everyone affected by the flooding is safe. "But there's going to be some major questions around preparedness here," said the Airdrie MLA. "The flood mitigation strategy and obviously the report that's been delayed involved this exact scenario, so there's going to be questions, and they're going to be tough questions and expensive questions but today's just not the day to deal with it." The 2005 floods cost more than $165 million in disaster relief and left three people dead. Griffiths said provincial officials can't say at this point how this flood emergency compares to eight years ago, but it's not the same as the earlier disaster. "This is an ongoing and very fluid event and circumstances are changing and it is not unfolding the way it did in 2005," he said. "We are in the middle of this crisis and we'll reserve judgment on whether or not it is worse or better after the crisis is over and we're able to assess what damage has been done." Griffiths couldn't say how many of the report's recommendations have been implemented, but said some infrastructure was constructed and the mapping of flood prone areas is still ongoing. The 12 communities in various states of emergency include: Sundre, Calgary, Lethbridge, Cochrane, High River, Turner Valley, Canmore, Black Diamond, Rocky View County, the municipal districts of Foothills, Bighorn and Crowsnest Pass. "Many of these communities settled right near river and flood plains because that was the appropriate thing to do," Griffiths added. "No matter how much mapping you do and mitigation you do, there are still going to be some risks associated because it's hard to move a whole community back five miles from the river." Colin Lloyd, managing director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said municipal officials are in charge of their local situations and the province's role is to supply advice, information and resources when requested. "This is not an unprecedented situation. Southern Alberta is no stranger to flooding," he said. "Communities are very well prepared and have very strong and integrated plans." If municipalities require more help, they can reach out to the province - and the province can call on the federal government, Lloyd said. "We're not at that stage yet and we don't anticipate going there," he said.
Premier Alison Redford, who was travelling back to Alberta Thursday after a trip to New York, said she plans to tour the affected areas Friday to "see the situation first-hand." In an interview with CBC, Redford said Thursday that the government's emergency preparedness system has worked properly. "There's no question the alerts were in place, the information has been available and that information has been helpful," she said. "We needed to be able to get people out and we did." Deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk and associate municipal affairs minister Greg Weadick are expected to head to Lethbridge, the premier's office said Thursday. email@example.com
Fearing the worst since '32
Calgary Herald Fri Jun 21 2013 Page: A17 Section: News Byline: Matt McClure Source: Calgary Herald The last time a massive storm dumped this much rain into the headwaters of the Bow and Elbow rivers, Calgary suffered its worst flooding of the last century. Weather records show that nearly 140 millimetres fell in the foothills over four days in the spring of 1932, almost the same amount of precipitation that has now drenched the region in just one day. When that deluge over eight decades ago raged eastward and reached the city, the Bow River peaked at flow levels twice as high as those seen in the recent 2005 floods. The river rose nearly four metres above normal, inundating parts of Sunnyside, Inglewood and what is now downtown Calgary. The city has constructed earth berms along the Bow since the 1932 disaster and installed valves on storm water drains to prevent backflow from the river into home basements. But a world-renowned hydrologist said Thursday that the city needs to be prepared now for flooding that could overwhelm those defences. "It looks like we could see the worst yet in settled history," John Pomeroy said in an interview from his Canmore home. "It's outside the experience any of the flood forecasters have had." Reports in the Herald about the June 3, 1932 disaster indicate Bowness Park was under nearly two metres of water and a log jam at the lumber company in Eau Claire diverted the river's course south into the city's downtown. "Residents of First and Second Avenue received a bad fright during the night, when logs from the Eau Claire jam floated down the avenues and in some cases came to rest with a resounding thud against residences in their path," the newspaper reported. "A muddy swirling stream looks terrifying enough in the daytime, but during the night it looks many times worse and men, women and children lost no time in dressing and seeking shelter with neighbours some distance from the danger zone."
Frank Frigo, a senior planning engineer with the city's water department, said in a recent interview that most of the embankments along the Bow River are now high enough to protect against a one-in-a-100 year flood event in which the level could rise up to six metres above normal. But Frigo said there are still areas in Sunnyside and Chinatown that are vulnerable. "The embankments exist, but they're just a shade too low," he said. "Those are the areas our emergency plan would need to address with temporary berms or evacuation plans." While Inglewood is now protected from overland flooding, he said home basements could fill up as groundwater intrudes through porous soil that underlay a neighbourhood built on old river bottom. Protecting homes built decades ago alongside the Elbow River is more difficult if not impossible, Frigo said. Dams on the rivers that run through the city are either too far upstream or too small to mitigate flooding from extremely heavy or intense rains. For example, the flow from the Elbow River during a large flood event would fill an emptied Glenmore reservoir to capacity within 12 hours. "It's like pointing a firehose at a teacup," Frigo said. "The storage just isn't large enough." The recent rains are the result of a large mass of warm air moving north and dumping its moisture as it rises and cools along the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Pomeroy, a Canada research chair in water resources at the University of Saskatchewan, said at higher altitudes the rains have also melted up to 60 cm of snow, adding to the extreme river flows. He said the rains fit with a rising trend in intense, multiday precipitation events that are likely linked to climate change. "This is exactly what we've been seeing more frequently on the Prairies over the last century," he said. "The trend is exactly consistent with what some of the climate models show is a response to a warming world." firstname.lastname@example.org
Veteran of 2005 floods can't believe his eyes
Calgary Herald Fri Jun 21 2013 Page: A18 Section: News Byline: Don Braid Column: Don Braid Source: Calgary Herald George Groeneveld has watched many floods from his rural home high above the Bow River, downstream from Calgary, but on Thursday morning he could scarcely believe his eyes. "I have never seen the Bow come up that fast," says the former Tory MLA for Highwood riding, who was once strongly critical of his own government's response to the big flood of 2005. "Usually, the river creeps up, but this time it rose so quickly. How could a river that big have a flash flood? But that's what was happening. "I'm not sure anything we could have done, any mitigation measures, could have helped very much with this one." Groeneveld says High River has done some excellent prevention work since 2005, but other communities let things slide, hoping for the best. "Most didn't do much at all after 2005," he adds. "Maybe if the report had come out sooner, they would have, I don't know. "And in this case, I'm honestly not sure it would have mattered much anyway." The 2005 flood was called the worst natural disaster in Alberta history. It inflicted massive damage on many of the 50 communities it touched. That flood was rather like a hurricane, closely and fearfully watched as it slowly gathered power. Thursday's flood was more like a sudden tornado that blew up in a flash and twisted all over the landscape. "It goes from one border of the province to the other border. It's massive - horrible, horrific, terrible," said Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, the politician charged with provincewide disaster response. "You just never know where the rain's going to fall, and how much of it there's going to be." The impact on Calgarians is already without precedent, far beyond what happened in 2005. Up to 10 per cent of the population could be under evacuation order.
Griffiths took some flak Thursday for holding a news conference at the provincial emergency centre in Edmonton, rather than coming south right away. That wasn't a wise decision, considering the tender regional feelings that linger from the last big flood. When premier Ralph Klein left office in 2006, and Ed Stelmach took over, the government appeared to forget its promises to protect against future flooding in the south. A report was written but kept secret. This was frustrating to Groeneveld, who was put in charge of the study, but found himself powerless to discuss the findings. "We got cut off at the pass somehow with the (party leadership) race," he said in 2010. "I could just never get the subject back on track." The government was side-swiped both by its own inertia and local politics. Many communities don't want to prohibit construction on flood plains. They like the tax revenue, and when a flood does come, the province and Ottawa always supply disaster money anyway. The province has since been strongly criticized not just for the 2005 flood response, but for poor coordination and anticipation of the 2011 Slave Lake fire. The government could have done better in those cases, and maybe should have done better this week. But none of the experts - not a single one, it seems - predicted the havoc that would be unleashed by such biblical volumes of sudden rain. Groeneveld probably knows more about southern flooding than anybody who's served in the legislature, but even he was in awe Thursday evening as he looked across the river from his home. "The fields over there, lowland pastures, are just slowly vanishing as I watch," he said. "This is already far beyond anything in 2005. Maybe it's the big one, the real 100-year flood." And the worst was still on the way. Don Braid's column appears regularly in the Herald email@example.com
Worst of Mother Nature no match for the human spirit
Calgary Herald Fri Jun 21 2013 Page: A2 Section: News Byline: Valerie Fortney Column: Valerie Fortney Dateline: HIGH RIVER Source: Calgary Herald
Mother Nature, I am humbled to the core. This is the first thought that springs to my mind on Thursday as I watch a fast-moving river appear out of nowhere, on the highest ground of this pretty southern Alberta town. I'm kilometres away from the overflowing banks of the Highwood River, yet its overwhelming force has reached past what anyone here ever thought possible. Minutes earlier, I was chatting with the store clerks at the local Co-op grocer, their work day interrupted by a power outage that sent them out to the front benches for a bonus smoke break. A couple of blocks and a blink of an eye later, I am standing ankle deep, then knee-deep, in a fastmoving current. "Lady, get in the car!" a woman in a Dodge Ram truck yells out from her passenger window. The next thing I know, Cheryl Beingssner-Kerr and I are travelling companions, as she confidently steers her 3/4-ton truck through more than a metre-deep pool of water that's swept over the only passable road in sight. "Hang on," says Beingssner-Kerr, clearly aware that her newest passenger is frightened out of her wits. "If this truck can't get through this, then no one can." Safe on the other side, the longtime High River resident tells me that her home in the heart of town is half-submerged. "This is my front yard," she says, showing me a photo on her cellphone sent by her husband. "My 86-year-old mother is in the house still." As we pass by a police officer directing traffic, she rolls down her window. "Can I get someone to go and check on my mother?" she asks. "We're doing the best we can, ma'am," says the young man. "We have all our people out, trying to get everyone to safety." Beingssner-Kerr, who works at the local Cargill plant, thought she'd seen it all before. "During the 1990 flood, we still played out our baseball game, but went and checked on our houses between innings," she says. "You live in High River, you get used to flood season. But this? I've never seen anything like it in my life - it's left me speechless."
Throughout this harrowing day, the inhabitants of this tight-knit community speak softly, using but a few words to share their common plight with familiar faces. "Underwater?" one man says to another at the Highwood High School, the makeshift centre for evacuees, as a friend walks in. "Underwater," his friend confirms. A young man, covered in a blanket and his hair still soaking wet, tells them: "I just got rescued by a guy in a boat. I can't believe this day." At the Tim Hortons up the road, a woman and her teenage daughter emerge from the restroom in a new set of dry clothes. "We swam through five feet of water, to save our four dogs," the mom says as fellow patrons nod their heads sympathetically. "I couldn't get my dog out in time," an elderly woman, her eyes filled with tears, tells the group of strangers gathered around to hear of their ordeal. The teen girl, still shivering from the icy waters, gives her a hug. As this surreal day wears on, the degrees of shock, fear and despair escalate with each person I meet. I spot Jennifer Perkins in the town's high school gymnasium, trying to hide her sobbing from her two-year-old and five-year-old daughters. "I haven't been able to get a hold of my husband all day," confesses the 31-year-old mom and eight-year High River resident. "He works downtown, where it's the worst. I just don't know what to do." Only an hour earlier, Perkins was in her home near the golf course, watching with neighbours as seemingly mild waters lapped at the edges of her street, then with no warning came rushing toward her front steps. "I had less than five minutes to grab diapers, juice," she says. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing, how fast and how much water there was." Hours later, I make my way back to the Co-op and am stopped in my tracks at what I see: the parking lot where I had left my car is now a lake. As the evacuation spreads to include the entire town, I'm left standing on the side of the highway with what I'm certain is a thousand-mile stare. "Do you need a lift?" calls out Lark IsBell, who turns out to be the town's retired fire chief. "He's seen a lot of floods," his wife Lynne tells me as the pair drives me to Aldersyde, where my husband is waiting. "But this is something we never expected. The worst is that I might have lost all our family photos." So, why did they offer a ride to this total stranger? "You looked like you could use a break," says Lark with a chuckle. "We have to be wonderful to one another when bad things happen." I lost a reliable vehicle, while hundreds of High River residents lost their homes, their baby pictures and their sense of safety and security. And still, it's the beautiful people I'll remember
most from this day. Mother Nature, you may be humbling, but you're no match for the aweinspiring power of the best of human nature. firstname.lastname@example.org
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