For the last few weeks, many of my writing, posting and other activities have taken a back seat to the news and activities surrounding the flooding here in Calgary and nearby cities and First Nations. Our neighborhood was evacuated for several days and since we’ve returned (all safe), I’ve been listening to other people’s stories, telling some of my own and taking many photos. My own family, in three households around the city, all live close to the Bow River. When we had to evacuate, we kept in touch by texting as we went in different directions to stay with friends and family, and thankfully were untouched by flood waters. Here is my story.
At about 9:30 PM the first night of the flood while I was taking pictures of the rising river, a neighbor told me that our area was next to evacuate. I walked home to listen to the news and by the time the police told us to leave at eleven o’clock at night, I’d grabbed a few days’ clothes, my cat and my neighbor. We went up the steep hill on our street to a McDonald’s and hung out there with other neighbors, eating and watching the news on television.
The river was supposed to crest between about three and six in the morning, so at about 5 AM on Friday when it started getting light, we decided to go back to see how high the water was. Police were blocking some of the roads, and we were shocked to see that the little creek about two blocks from our area was now a raging river about five times wider and faster, and was only one block from us. All the electricity was out, so I figured that was a sign that we weren’t welcome back, so even though we were sure that no water would reach our places, we decided that we would cooperate by going to a shelter at a recreation center.
On the way, we saw that what was once a dog park, golfing range and cement factory was now a raging river. It was a strange to walk into the hockey rink where my kids had often played hockey, and to see the entire surface of the rink filled with rows of cots! As was typical around the city, there were so many volunteers and so many donations offered, we watched them turn away people and home-made food because there was no more room for them. We stayed there and ate three meals, and then went to a friend’s house for the night. Returning to our neighborhood on Saturday to see if we could salvage some food from our refrigerators before it all spoiled, we found that the electricity was back on and we were allowed to come back home.
The entire downtown core—one of the hardest hit since it is along the river—was flooded and closed for about a week, some businesses even longer. The mayor asked all companies, whether in flood zones or not, to close up shop in order to allow all emergency vehicles to do their job unhindered by traffic. I thought this was brilliant, and am in awe of the competency and care of our mayor Naheed Nenshi. My son’s IT company, which is in operation 24/7, had to move their operations to an employee’s basement and later to a college classroom, carrying on their work via their company’s server near Atlanta, Georgia.
June 22nd – police borrowing my neighbor’s binoculars to see if it was a person in the middle of the river (it wasn’t, it was just debris)
For a few days, sections of the main highway through town were closed. It was frightening when a railroad bridge buckled over the river with a train on it carrying tanker cars full of petroleum. Thank God the bridge held and the train was moved with no further problems. My neighbor works at the Calgary Zoo, which is on an island in the Bow River in the east part of downtown, and he told me yesterday that they had to lay off seventy-five percent of their staff. The flood damage required them to close, and it will be months before everything gets up and running again. In the early part of the flooding there was a contingency plan for some of the large cats from the zoo to be evacuated to the city jail, but it proved unnecessary.
July 16th – now that the water has gone done, we can see how in many places the trail was gouged out by the river. It all used to look like the trail in the background, only with shale covering it.
I personally don’t know anyone who was flooded out. A co-worker told me that some friends in Mission—a beautiful neighborhood, many of whose front yards extend to the banks of the Elbow River—lived in a seven million dollar home, but are abandoning it because it will cost two million dollars to repair the flood damage. The government gave financial support to many victims, and recently announced that there would be conditions on any further support for those in flood zones, encouraging them to rebuild in a different location.
The flood hit two weeks before one of Calgary’s biggest celebrations, the Stampede. It flooded one of the central venues, the grandstand, rodeo grounds and racetrack where the chuck wagon races are held. With the announcement that the Stampede would go on as planned, “come hell or high water”, came tee shirts with that logo, sold as fund raisers for flood relief. I could hardly believe it when I was at the grounds on Sunday and heard that to date $2.1 million has been raised from these shirts! There on the big screen we saw the amazing transformation in photographs of the entire area under several feet of water, yet two weeks later, it was dried out and remade to a track that the cowboys and horse racers said was a better surface than they’d had in years. I am inspired and proud of the spirit in this city.
- This bench used to sit in the shade of huge old poplar trees along a lovely red shale walking trail, facing trees and bushes and within hearing of a gurgling creek where the mallards made their nests in the rushes.
I have just returned from my latest walk in my end of the once-flooded park and saw uprooted trees and various strange debris in the middle of a large field that were apparently dropped off by that raging river during the flood. The creek is almost down to its normal July spring run-off level, but its course has changed to cross over the walking path. I am—and have been through the past weeks as I have seen the alarmingly fast waters and the hills of large rocks deposited in its wake—in awe of the power of God in nature. Somehow, though it sits in the center of the most disastrous looking area, my favorite bench is still there in the midst of the wreckage with debris still stuck firmly to it.
My prayers continue for the victims in Calgary and especially High River to the south, and the First Nations to the east and west. I hope you will join me to ask for help from the ultimate power in the universe, Almighty God, who tells us to call to him and he will answer us, and show us great and mighty things.