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article imageThe recovery and the pride of High River Special

By Ben Morris     May 18, 2014 in World
High River - It is a town 37 kilometers south of Calgary, which was hit hard by the flood of 2013. As they prepare for an annual celebration of their history, the memories of destruction remain.
It is a town that is usually alive on Victoria Day long weekend. The annual Little Britches Parade is in just two days, but the streets are vacant. If this was a Wild West town, tumbleweeds would be blowing past your feet. The silence is eery, but the town is not dead. Residents refuse to give up, and although the recovery has been slow, residents will not let their beloved home die.
Estimates suggest 80 percent of the town flooded. One of thew hardest-hit areas was downtown, many businesses were closed on a Saturday afternoon, or are still closed thanks to the flood. The town 13,000 people called home is populated by anywhere to 9,000, or as high as 11,000. The barren downtown is a portrait of town still in recovery, and was the epicenter of destruction.
Bruce Masterman, a newly elected town councilor walked into the Alta Vita pub downtown, across the street from a boarded up post office, and a block away from a vacant 7/11. Greeting patrons, the 34 year resident of the town sipped on a cup of coffee and reminisced about the pub that, was under water less than one year ago. The owner of the pub Wayne Spencer, re-opened the eatery to massive fan fare a few weeks ago. There is still minor construction of a patio and dining area, but Stevens has recovered faster than many business owners who either have not yet opened their doors, or have mysteriously closed their business on the Saturday afternoon of a long weekend.
Strolling the streets that were tidal waves eleven months earlier, Masterman reached a street that was once submerged in water. He recalled, "We've had some water downtown before , but we've never had anything under water, and everything here was under water."
Masterman quickly, he approached the workplace of his wife Karen, who showed up to work on the fateful day that turned High River into a giant swimming pool. Masterman recalled,"There was water on the street at nine in the morning- she took the car up the hill to our place, put on rubber boots, by the time she walked back, the office was closed, because the water was so deep."
In no time, the town was covered in water, a mandatory evacuation was called, and the struggle of High River became front page news for weeks. Controversies like gun confiscation, and the displacement of seniors from their nursing homes have been matched by stories of families who have still not returned to the 109 year old town that has been used as a backdrop for for episodes of the FXX show Fargo. Even the town's museum was hit hard by the flood mere weeks after a renovation. An estimate after the flood showed 80 percent of the artifacts housed by The Museum of the Highwood was destroyed.
That was when local non-profits
got together to show complete unity and altruism. With help by the provincial government, local politicians, and citizens got together to bring life back into the home they know and love.
The town is slowly being rebuilt, and although the mention of rainfall in a town susceptible to flooding makes residents nervous, they soldier on. On Monday, residents will line up all around downtown to look at carefully constructed floats that hold a special meaning. The Little Britches Parade is the prototypical small town celebration. Honoring traditions, bringing together families, the parade will help townspeople forget the loss and confusion, at least for a few hours.
The town may have looked like Atlantis last June, but it is still standing. With each brick, and strike of a hammer, the town will be reborn. For more than 100 years, residents have be hit with a lot, but the story always ends the same. Nothing can destroy this town.
More about high river, alberta floods 2013, flood recovery
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