Well, it’s been an interesting week.
In case you haven’t heard, Calgary and most of southern Alberta suffered a major flood. For those who got in touch to check up on us, thank you for your concern.
Fortunately, Hubby and I are high and dry, and the whole experience has been surreal. If not for the TV and internet coverage, we’d never know there was anything wrong if we didn’t leave our neighbourhood. It rained, yes, a little more than usual, but we’ve had times when the storm drains on our street couldn’t keep up with the rainfall, and that didn’t happen this time.
Then the sun came out, our streets dried, and there was no hint of the devastation happening all around us. Our power stayed on, and although the water tastes like mud, the City assures us it’s safe to drink.
But entire towns have been destroyed. The town of High River (population 13,000) is about an hour south of Calgary. It was evacuated on a moment’s notice and parts are still completely submerged. It happened unbelievably fast. Here’s a timeline of the flooding: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Timeline+Alberta+flooding/8556187/story.html
Here in Calgary, about 25 neighbourhoods were evacuated, including the main downtown business district. They’re saying approximately 200,000 people have been displaced across southern Alberta. This video gives an idea of the flooding in Calgary: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152915137815526. To put it in perspective, the flow rate of Niagara Falls is about 1834 cubic metres per second. The Bow River (one of two rivers that run through the downtown area) peaked at about 1700 cubic metres per second this past weekend.
So far, about 75,000 Calgarians have been allowed to return to their homes. The cleanup is beginning, but the damage to homes and businesses and infrastructure is staggering. Downtown, our major business district was completely shut down, and it may take months to restore service to some areas. Streets have been swept away, and our light rail transit tracks look like an accordion in places.
But the good news about all this is the way our city has pulled together. Within hours, Kijiji.ca (an online buy/sell forum) was crowded with ads from people offering food, clothes, lodging, child care, pet care, volunteer labour, heavy equipment; you name it, people were offering it to total strangers for free.
Home builders are offering their show homes for habitation. Management companies are offering temporary office space. Despite one highly-publicized instance of price-gouging ($20 for a bag of ice), most businesses are behaving themselves, and many are offering free supplies to those who need them. And there have only been a few isolated instances of looting.
I was impressed with the way the City and emergency response teams dealt with the crisis. Of course, in a time of extreme emergency not everything will go perfectly, but in general people were well-informed and given as much notice as possible. Emergency centres were set up quickly and efficiently, and communication was clear.
I don’t have enough good things to say about the dedication and professionalism of our police, fire, and other emergency personnel. Our mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has distinguished himself. He’s been tireless in keeping us up to date, and his plain-spoken style has been very popular.
Just to give you an idea of his personality, here’s what he had to say when he found people had been canoeing on the incredibly dangerous Bow River: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=md_GrKpdEgM.
You’ve gotta love a guy that puts it out there like that. Now it’s a Calgary meme: “Don’t be a Nenshi noun”. (And in happier times, here’s a little video of Mayor Nenshi reading “Pete the Cat” for the Calgary Children’s Festival before all this blew up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJTZ719my3g.)
The best part is, out of all this damage and destruction, the death toll so far is still in the single digits. That may change as crews get access to areas that are still submerged, but so far it’s hopeful.
It has been a difficult time, and it’s not going to get better fast. I feel lucky that we’ve been unaffected personally, but I’m heartsick for those who have lost loved ones, homes, and belongings.
But we’re a bunch of tough, big-hearted people here in Calgary, and we’ll get through it together. Here’s the proof: https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=607082619316759&set=a.580614995296855.1073741828.580215498670138&type=1&theater.
CEMA put out a request for 1,000 volunteers; the only requirement was that they be 18 or older and able to meet at McMahon Stadium at 10 AM. They hoped for five or six hundred. Instead, the stadium was thronged with over 2,500 eager volunteers. Our food banks are overflowing with donations and our volunteer sites are inundated with people wanting to help. Bands of volunteers are roving the communities, helping total strangers. One man even drove his hydro-vac truck all the way down from Prince Albert and is going door to door pumping out people’s basements for free.
The flood was and is a disaster, but it has made me proud to be a Calgarian.
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For anyone who’s interested in more background information, here’s link to a Wikipedia site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Alberta_floods and a map of the affected areas: