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article imageRaging rivers and streams force evacuations in southern Alberta

By Grace C. Visconti     Jun 21, 2013 in Environment
Calgary - Raging rivers and streams from heavy consistent rain falling for days has forced evacuations in Calgary and numerous communities in southern Alberta. The current floods of 2013 are far worse than in 2005 when Calgary was hit with days of heavy rain.
Check out #abfloods on twitter for photos and top videos of citizens in the area as ravaging uncontrollable water from rivers and streams flood Calgary and outlying communities in southern Alberta. Residents of all communities affected in Alberta should stay tuned to local media for alerts and updates. Click on the links at the end of this article for current information about evacuations.
It has been raining heavily with sudden downpours in southern Alberta for days now causing flash floods in certain areas. It became a crisis earlier today when the Emergency Broadcast System began to sound their alerts which then continued all day long on radio and TV warning people which areas were going to be evacuated next.
Mandatory evacuations were issued for 14 neighbourhoods in Calgary including Mission, Elbow Park, Stanley Park, Roxboro, Rideau, Discovery Ridge, Victoria Partk, Erlton, Cliff Bungalow, Sunnyside, Bowness, Westmount, Montgomery, parts of Inglewood. The rest of Inglewood, Eau Claire, Chinatown, Downtown Calgary and the East Village, Bridgeland, Deer Run and Riverbend are possibly next. The Calgary Zoo, a very popular local attraction, was also closed because of the proximity to the Bow River. Up to 100 mm of rain has fallen in the Bow River basin alone and it will continue to rain over the weekend.
The additional southern Alberta communities in various states of emergencies include: Sundre, Lethbridge, Cochrane, High River, Turner Valley, Canmore, Black Diamond, Rockyview County, the municipal districts of Foothills, Bighorn and Crowsnest Pass. High River got hit really hard with people trapped in their homes while others determined to be rescued, climbed on to their rooftops trying to get attention from anyone who could help them.
The Bow and Elbow Rivers are still rising and this consistent heavy rainfall and the damage it is causing may in fact usurp the great rainfall of 2005 when the Bow River flowed through the streets of Calgary and people were warned to stay away from the river. That year, 40,000 homes were affected and 1,500 Calgarians were evacuated across the city so this is a far worse situation. Weather reporters are urging people in low lying areas who haven’t been evacuated yet to be ready because they will most likely be asked to leave especially since heavy rain is forecast for the overnight period. The major concern is that the Bow and Elbow Rivers will swell over the riverbanks and water will rush over the Glenmore dam.
Possibly 100,000 could be affected but that number may rise since the heavy downpour will continue in southern Alberta for the weekend. Combined with spring runoff from the mountains, the heavy rains have washed out highways, main streets, side roads and have devastated outlying mountain communities such as High River, Bragg Creek, and Canmore. Flash flooding forced people to run for cover or for some people in High River, it meant taking refuge on their rooftops until the Military came to their rescue by scooping them up into helicopters! People who owned boats were also urged to use them to rescue neighbours from their flood ridden homes.
Calgarians are asked to avoid going downtown Thursday night and Friday, June 21st just in case the water from the Bow River floods downtown streets and people can’t get out of a building or aren’t able to travel home. Memorial Drive is closed east and west of the very busy Centre Street bridge with more road closures being announced for the downtown core.
Emergency responders are going door to door in threatened areas and people are being asked to identify themselves before they are evacuated. People should take any medications required with them, identification and other necessary items. Also, those requiring evacuation should take their pets with them just in case their homes get submerged in the quick flowing water. Some residents in low lying areas are evacuating by choice before emergency responders arrive.
The City of Calgary held a press conference today after declaring Calgary a state of emergency. The Emergency Operations Centre was opened where utility companies Enmax, Atco and Alberta Health Services gathered to support front-line responders. This is Calgary’s multi-agency command centre for large-scale emergencies.
The City of Calgary officials are anticipating worse flooding Thursday night towards early Friday morning. People who are experiencing basement flooding should call 311, an emergency hotline for the City of Calgary.
The outlying areas of Calgary like the mountain communities of Bragg Creek, Canmore, and Banff have also been hit hard. High River was one of the first communities to report that 75% of the community was under water. Danielle Smith, a Highwood resident and Wildrose Opposition leader in the Alberta legislature, was caught in the flood. She knew High River was in trouble when the river spilled onto the streets. Smith and other residents attempted to save the hospital by sandbagging around it but the water rushed through the doors forcing patients to move a number of floors higher. To make matters worse, even the evacuation centre had to move because of the encroaching fast moving water.
Then there was the sour gas leak crisis in Turner Valley and all of the residents had to evacuate for their own health and safety. The Alberta Energy Regulator reported that flooding may have caused this leak but the flow of toxic flammable gas, hydrogen sulfide, was turned off. Turner Valley Coun. Barry Williamson said the pipeline was struck by river debris. However, a small amount was still seeping into floodwaters as the line became submerged in water. The Regulator said it was under control and that air quality monitoring didn’t detect dangerous levels of sour gas. More information is available in this CBC report.
The TransCanada Highway is closed, both East and West of Cougar Creek in Canmore. Also, the Highway 1 is closed from Golden, British Columbia going eastward to Banff, Alberta, causing a massive traffic backlog. Not only are the floods a danger but also mudslides are a very real threat. Some sections of the TransCanada highway have been deluged with mudslides.
There is now a “boil water advisory” for communities outside of Calgary and it will most likely be a matter of time before Calgary gets the advisory too but for now, the water is fine as of Thursday night. The Chinook Mall Food court has been evacuated and turned into a police command centre.
Alberta residents should stay tuned to their local radio and TV stations for ongoing alerts that is if the power is still on. If not, then attempt to get updated alerts with your cell phone. CBC Calgary that is right beside the river was also evacuated so they will not be reporting the news Thursday night. However, they will be reporting on Friday from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology that is situated on higher ground.
Check out the current updates on the Alberta Police Report facebook site or keep updated on twitter.
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