Calgary Flood 2013

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:

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:  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, (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:

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:

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:!/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.

we are calgary

* * *

For anyone who’s interested in more background information, here’s link to a Wikipedia site: and a map of the affected areas:

43 thoughts on “Calgary Flood 2013

  1. As former Calgarians we too were glued to the TV and internet coverage, not believing our eyes, recognizing familiar flooded locations, getting pictures and updates from our Calgary ‘family’. We were so glad to hear you were OK along with many of our friends, some were not so lucky. I am sharing an email sent to us today. With the help of 20 young and enthusiastic volunteers our friends are on the road to recovery.

    “We are slowly recovering from the flood. We are becoming experts in demolition. We have pumped out our basement, removed contents, washed ceramics and glass and discarded the rest of belongings, including furniture, food, wine, art work, furnace, washer & dryer, water heater, torn down the walls and ceiling, removed the insulation, threw everything into dumpsters, dried walls, sanitized walls, ran dehumidifiers, etc. We have been so busy. It is amazing what one can do in an emergency!”

    Happy Canada Day Calgarians – lets hope there is a huge fireworks display tonight to celebrate the great volunteer community spirit.


  2. It must be an incredible sight to be near the top of one of those high-rise buildings and have a view of what’s going on at street level. I’ve never been to Calgary, but have always wanted to visit. It seems like a great city, filled with generous people. I hope the recovery goes well, and that Calgary comes out stronger than ever. I’m really glad you’re okay, Diane.


  3. Just catching up. Glad you made it through the flood OK. As did my sister and myriads of other relatives and friends. I tracked FaceBook pretty close these past few days, I can tell you. It will be a long old clean up and I hope the volunteers keep coming long after the thrill has gone.


    • I hope so, too – and I hope it’s not just the volunteerism that persists. It’s easy to put aside our differences when there’s a crisis, but in the long hard weeks/months of recovery I hope people continue to cut each other a little slack.


  4. Ha! Love your Mayor!
    I’m glad that you and your family are safe. And sorry to hear about the devastating floods, but as you say it’s good to see how people can come together and help those in need. It’s a wonderful thing to see the human race moving towards their true potential 🙂


  5. I now know that you and your family are safe and that a citizen of Calgary is a Calgarian. (Is a citizen of a town named Accordia an accordion?)

    The old saying goes “if the Lord is willin’ and the creek don’t rise.” Well, the Lord may still be willin’, but the creeks are definitely rising.


  6. I was proud to watch the convoys of Edmonton Police cars and fire fighters heading south to help. My entire regiment and most of the base emptied out between mid morning thursday and end day friday. My brothers that got deployed said the appreciation they are getting from the locals in the area is unbelievable. We are currently working in cochrane, high river and medicine hat. The cleanup after will be huge but the response from Edmonton (typically Calgary rivals to the bitter end) has been heartwarming to see.


    • I was thinking of you as I saw all the army vehicles passing through. You guys are the best – I’m so proud of you! And yeah, Calgary and Edmonton are bitter rivals… until something like this happens. Then we’re all Albertans. 🙂


  7. Yes Diane, glad you’re OK. Prayers from Detroit go out to your neck of the woods as it does across so much of USA as well. I seems one half is burning the other half flooding. It’s becoming beyond depressing for everyone involved. Seems for the last two months here in Detroit we are getting one torrential downpour after the other.


    • Wish they would put edit on comments. It seems, not I seems and at some point you can only write a certain amount before you no longer can. Anyway the weather is affecting enough to make it way beyond enough misery to go around. So many homes ruined. Very sad.


  8. We were aware of the floods as my hubbie’s family and a lot of his friends live there. Fortunately they are all ok (my mother in law was evacuated, but thankfully she is back home as of yesterday). From what I hear and see you do live in a city to be proud of! So be proud and shout it out!


  9. Hi Diane… glad to read that you’re OK. I’ve been out of touch lately but seem to remember catching something about flooding in Calgary… these forces of nature are devastating. I like how people pull together in times of need (and the majority do).
    Hope you stay safe, and the weather gets better for you soon.


    • I’m glad you’re okay! It’ll be interesting to see how things settle out after the initial surge of fellowship and goodwill, but I’d like to think this is what we’re “really” like. 🙂


  10. We’ve recently had problems with that here in Texas, but like you we have fortunately escaped the tragedy. I’m sorry for the people who have lost their homes and worse, their lives. I’m glad you’re okay!


  11. As a former Calgarian and having lived downtown, we watched the news non-stop during the height of the crisis. I had no doubt that Calgarians would pull together. You are fortunate to have a mayor like Naheed. What a great guy! Glad all is well in your neighbourhood. Thanks for the great links and post.


  12. In times like these, people sometimes become opportunists and gouge everyone for their unfortunate disaster. What is great is to hear of people doing things for others just because it makes them feel good. Most of the people are made like that, but there are a few who take advantage of the situation. Just a few like those can ruin it for everyone. It certainly so good to hear that there are those people who do the good part out of the goodness of their heart. Glad you didn’t have any problems.


    • Thanks, Mike. You’re right; usually the news focuses on the bad apples and we tend to forget that although the bad ones are out there, the majority of people are good, well-meaning, generous folks. It’s too bad it takes an event like this to remind us.


  13. Drat Drat Drat, I forgot you were in Calgary—for some reason when i thought of my bloggy friends in the Calgary area, I got it in my head that you were in Saskatchewan, even though I know you aren’t. I’m SO glad you’re doing okay. The people in Calgary are doing such a great job, and I freaking love the Calgary mayor. I wish we could clone him.


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