Flooding in Calgary and Southern Alberta ... June 20th, 2013
As a result of what has become known as a 'perfect storm' (days of heavy rain, unstable ice pack accelerating an early spring run-off from the mountains over ground that at higher elevations was still frozen), June saw record amounts of flooding in a wide area of Southern Alberta. Over 120,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Calgary and surrounding communities (including the Sitsika reserve). The entire population of the nearby town of High River faced Mandatory Evacuation. Three rivers, the Bow, the Elbow and the Sheep flooded simutaneously. First to be seriously affected were parts of the town of Canmore, about 90km west of Calgary.
The Elbow River which runs alongside the FCJ Centre/Sacred Heart Convent in Calgary was at a dangerously high level and almost the entire Mission area was in a designated evacuation zone. The flood conditions developed so quickly that there was no time to build the usual berms along the parts of the rivers most prone to flooding.
The emphasis was put on people's safety. rather than on preventing property damage. Many people have expressed amazement at the speed with which the city's emergency plan was put into action. And when it was safe to begin cleanup thousands of citizens arrived ready to work and to help those who had suffered damage.
At the height of the flood, water was coming over Glenmore Dam (on the Elbow River in SW Calgary), at almost the same volume and speed as the water flowing over Niagara Falls.
A large portion of the city's downtown core was flooded when flood waters spilled over the banks near the Stampede grounds and used the tunnel for the City's LRT (light rail transit) as a conduit to downtown.
Area circled in red is the entrance to the C-train tunnel
which allowed water to reach the downtown core.
The mayor declared a 'family day' and urged people to stay at home, particularly the 350,000 people who work in the City's downtown core. There were several updates from City officials each day which helped to keep people calm. (This link is to a sample video update from Mayor Nenshi at the height of the floods.)
Statistics Canada said (27/08/2013) that 'workers in Alberta collectively lost 5.1 million hours of work as a result of the flood'.
The FCJ Centre experienced no flooding from the river, but electricity and water don't mix, so power had been turned off in a large area of the city. This made conditions difficult and the community chose to voluntarily evacuate. So the Centre closed and everyone moved out and found a welcome in another FCJ community or with family or friends for well over a week until power was restored. The Centre did experience water damage in the sub-basement, as a result of rain and ground water ... and a sump pump that couldn't function without electricity.
The good news was that evacuees across Southern Alberta found a place of safety and were quickly supplied with immediate necessities. However, although there is little external evidence of the flood, some 2500 people are still living in temporary accommodation and the rebuilding will take many months and massive amounts of money. In the aftermath of the floods the Alberta government says more than 14,500 homes were damaged during the flood and the cost of repair to infrastructure could top 5 billion dollars.
More pictures are available at the CTV News Calgary Flood Gallery 2013.