Southern Alberta Floods

Canmore, Alberta

I've seen images of disasters around the world. It's stunning for all of us to see homes, towns, cities and families torn apart by tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and general floods but I can only appreciate it relatively speaking. The horror of families uprooted from their homes, that I can relate to, but to see areas of the world destroyed only hits a person completely if they are familiar with those areas personally. If they walked those streets and have a frame of reference from before the destruction. That's when it really hits home.

I usually don't comment on current affairs. Enough people do that already and I head over to their pages and blogs if I want to be informed. However, I live in Southern Alberta. You may, or may not have heard that this area has been devastated by record flooding this week. I personally have not been affected and yet I live no more than 10 minutes away from the worst flooding the city of Calgary has ever experienced.

[Update: Although it is still too early to tell, the flood damage could run as high as $5 billion dollars]

Southern Alberta is a semi-arid region that does not usually receive high amounts of rainfall. A high-pressure system in northern Alberta blocked the passage to a low-pressure area to the south. This blocked circulation and easterly winds pumped humidity on the rising slopes of the Rocky Mountains foothills, causing heavy rain into the province with rainfall amounts of over 100 millimetres (3.9 in) to fall in less than two days in many regions of the province, particularly west and southwest of Calgary. In Canmore, a town in Alberta's Rockies, over 220 millimetres (8.7 in) fell in 36 hours, nearly half of the town's annual average rainfall. The rain falling on already saturated ground, coupled with the steep watershed in the mountains, resulted in a rapid increase in the size and flow of several rivers. [wiki]

So basically perfect storm of events came together to cause this massive flood. High River, Brad Creek, Canmore, Calgary and the Siksika First Nations reserve received severe damage. I was told by a police officer that Canmore has been virtually wiped off the map. Although the facts aren't in yet, this has been projected to be the most expensive flood in Canadian history.

If you follow the NHL then you know about the Calgary Flames and the Saddledome. If you've lived on the planet for any length of time you may have heard of the Calgary Stampede, the greatest outdoor show in the world due to kick off July 5th on the same grounds as the Saddledome.

Water reached the tenth level of seating

I'll post some more images below but something I wanted to focus on is the people of Calgary and surrounds. When a call went out for volunteers 600 people were expected and thousands of people showed up. When approx 100,000 people were forced to evacuate, less than 2,000 showed up at evacuation or emergency centres in Calgary. This is because everyone opened their homes and took in strangers. People advertised on Kijiji to say they had a space for anyone needing a place to stay or a place for their pets.

This willingness to do what was necessary to help, with  no regard for personal comfort started with the mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi.

The man literally did not sleep for days. He worked tirelessly to ensure the people of his city were safe and that measures were taken to accommodate everyone. He worked so tirelessly that people started telling him he needed to get some sleep. (#napfornenshi) He even took in people who were homeless and learned personally how late old people can stay up when they're playing cards.

This is a politician who leads by example and who, by his actions both honourable and self-sacrificing, has had and will have one of the largest approval ratings for years to come.

Also? He's Muslim. He might even be gay. But in this redneck province, Canada's Texas, nobody gives a damn. Mayor Nenshi takes his work very seriously but does not take himself seriously at all. He sincerely wants to and tries to make his little area of the world the best place it can be. This is how it's supposed to be and he makes us proud.

And Calgary Stampede? Well, it's going ahead come hell or high water. In fact this has become the mantra of late.

Get yours here. Proceeds from each “Hell or High Water” t-shirt
sold will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Floods Fund

Zoo animals who can afford to stay in flooded enclosures

Calgary Zoo is on an island in the river and ended up under water. A zoo has contingency plans for events like this and they lost only a few of their animals. Two free roaming peacocks, some tilapia and some piranha's due to the power shortage and the zoo's inability to maintain their climate controls. Because the flooding happened so quickly, the zoo had to prioritize which animals to move and which ones could survive in a few feet of water temporarily. More commentary and video on that here.

Canmore, Alberta

Canmore is nestled in between snow covered mountain peaks and is pretty much the gateway to Banff National Park on the southeast boundary. The roads leading to Canmore and away from, heading west, are washed out. Basically, there was currently no way to get to British Columbia at the time of the flooding and if there is now, it's a very temporary fix until roads can be reconstructed. I had a very hard time finding images and news about this city.

As you can see above, the highway is destroyed in both directions. Bottom left shows an earth mover and gives you a sense of the size of this damage and this is just for one highway.

Some Calgary before and during the flood images:

That tree is actually flood debris

There were no reports of looting. A few occurrences of profiteering, price-fixing or price-gouging. During emergencies this is illegal and thanks to twitter, business owners who decided to take this route were exposed quickly. Read more about that here.

Profiteering attempts get shut down quickly with social media.
This person paid almost $50 for 24 bottles of water

As of yesterday, 65,000 Calgarians have been allowed to return to their homes. The citizens of Canmore, High River, Brad Creek and surrounds will be out of house and home far longer. Downtown Calgary is still mostly shut down but life is returning and the clean up begins.

Millions of people have been affected one way or another and while much damage has been done and a lot of work is left to return people back to their lives, no one will forget the people who stepped up and made it easier.

Here is a summary by a local radio station and a video showing Canmore's flooding

If you made it this far, thank you. It really only impacts you if you're there or if you have suffered a similar disaster and that has made me a little more sympathetic to the reports of others going through similar misfortunes. It also drives home the knowledge that regardless of our backgrounds or beliefs, humans all want the same thing and the majority of us step up when we're needed to.

Huffington Post article with a lot of images here.


Pickles said...


Pickles said...

Was making a point of coming to your site tonight to check in and see if you were okay. Glad to see you are.

My Brother In Law works/lives in downtown Calgary - I asked Friday if he was evacuated - his response "nope - have beer, doritos and a supply of man food - staying put". He is in a 3rd floor condo.

So proud of the "Canadian" response to events like this.

Frimmy said...

I'm so OK I feel guilty about it. Not even slightly inconvenienced at this point. I haven't been downtown or even on the Deerfoot (Hwy 2) since the flooding. There just doesn't seem to be enough I can do for the people who lost everything. I know people who know people from there who lost everything so I'm not even impacted in my circle of acquaintances. Maybe it's time to start putting down roots.

Noelle said...

That's awesome to hear about the mayor and the citizens taking care of each other. That's the story!


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