HIGH RIVER, Alta. - As Cheyenne Lowry, 18, waited to be rescued from rising floodwaters in High River, Alta., she frantically phoned her father. "I said if helicopters don't come, I love you," Lowry said Friday from the Red Cross evacuation centre in nearby Blackie, about 40 km south of Calgary.

"I'll try to see you when I see you. I was bawling ... it was just disaster."

When the Highwood River started swelling, Lowry moved as many belongings as possible to the top floor of her brother's house, where she had been living for a few months. But as water started lapping at the front door, she put on flip flops and rushed out with only the clothes on her back.

She and her friends fled to a house on what they thought was higher ground, but ended up trapped.

"They tried to get a helicopter to us, but they had to get everyone on their roofs first. They tried to get boats to us, but the boats kept getting taken away in the current," she said.

"It was scary."

Lowry still didn't know on Friday evening where most of her friends were, or what had become of her truck.

High River has been one of the communities hit hardest by the raging waters. Roads and bridges have been swamped, police have cut off access to most of the town and helicopters have been circling overhead. Cars lie submerged in water, abandoned. Some backhoes have been working in vain to push water back from houses.

Lowry said she and her friends watched in horror as someone in a Honda Civic tried to cross a flooded bridge, only to get swept away by the current.

"He was stuck on a tree and he was still in his vehicle," she said. "I started crying because there is nothing you can really do to help somebody that's stuck on a tree in this water that you can't get to."

She saw other cars, houses and trailers sweep past. People in boats who tried to rescue residents with health issues floundered against the currents. One boat's engine cut out and it started to take on water.

Lowry and more than 200 others have taken refuge in the evacuation centre — which is also welcoming pets. Children have been playing around the cots on the floor while members of the High River Hutterite colony swept the stairs and mopped the floors.

Many volunteers are evacuees themselves and have no idea if they still have houses.

Other town residents have crowded into the homes of friends and relatives on higher ground.

Marty Ritz is one of the lucky ones. His house has stayed dry and he has opened his doors to 18 people who were forced from their homes.

"We're putting them up in different bedrooms, and they're sleeping in the living room," Ritz said Friday. "Everybody's getting together to do the cooking. It's nice when you can help."

Ritz spent part of the day pumping out his friend's basement, where the water was more than a metre deep. That house usually sits on the edge of a golf course. Now it is perched beside a lake, with water spilling over the sidewalk into roads navigable only by boats.

"We've lived here since 1972 and we've never had one (like this) — 1995 and 2005 were the worst two and they weren't even anything close to this," Ritz said. "This is exponential compared to what we're used to dealing with."

Lowry said she feels uplifted by how the community is coming together to cope.

"I feel proud in a way, because everyone is here helping," she said during a break from sorting donated clothing.

"I'm really happy and proud to see that everyone is actually doing something about it."

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  • Emergency Declared In Southern Alberta After Heavy Flooding

    Houses damaged along the edge of Cougar Creek are shown June 20, 2013 in Canmore, Alta. Widespread flooding caused by torrential rains washed out bridges and roads prompting the evacuation of thousands.

  • Emergency Declared In Southern Alberta After Heavy Flooding

    Residents watch flooding along Cougar Creek June 20, 2013 in Canmore, Alta. Widespread flooding caused by torrential rains washed out bridges and roads prompting the evacuation of thousands.

  • Emergency Declared In Southern Alberta After Heavy Flooding

    Residents watch the flooding Cougar Creek as it takes out Eagle Terrace Road and nears the top of the Elk Run Blvd Bridge June 20, 2013 in Canmore, Alta. Widespread flooding caused by torrential rains washed out bridges and roads prompting the evacuation of thousands.

  • Emergency Declared In Southern Alberta After Heavy Flooding

    Houses damaged along the edge of Cougar Creek.

  • A lone truck sits submerged in the flood waters near downtown High River, Alta. on Thursday.

  • Homes along Cougar Creek in Canmore, Alta. barely hang on as the town struggles to deal with flooding Thursday.

  • A front end loader carries residents after they were rescued from the flood waters in High River, Alberta.

  • A kayaker paddles down a flooded street in High River, Alberta on Thursday.

  • Cars are submerged by the flood waters in High River, Alberta on Thursday.

  • Kevan Yaets swims after his cat Momo to safety as the flood waters sweep him downstream after submerging his truck in High River, Alberta on Thursday.

  • A woman is rescued from the flood waters in High River, Alta. on Thursday.

  • Kevan Yaets crawls out the back window of his pick up truck with his cat Momo as the flood waters sweep him downstream after submerging his truck in High River.

  • A helicopter carrying residents lands on a road in High River, Alta., Thursday.

  • Crystal Poirier, Roger Poirier

    Roger Poirier, holds his family's cat, Smartie, as his wife Crystal looks on after rescuing it from their flooded house in High River, Alta., Thursday.

  • Cars and homes are submerged in flood waters in High River.

  • Rescuers looks for stranded residents in High River, Alta. on June 20, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks.

  • A shot of the homes along Cougar Creek.

  • Semi truck sit idle to the Trans-Canada Highway in Canmore, Alta. on Thursday June 20, 2013. Calgary and most of southern Alberta are being hammered by rain that has washed-out roads and bridges, caused mudslides and closed major highways.

  • A flooded residence in High river, Alta. Heavy rains have caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuation in High River, Alta., Thursday, June 20, 2013.

  • A front end loader carries people to safety from the flood waters in High River, Alta. on June 20, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks.

  • Kevan Yaets swims after his cat Momo to safety as the flood waters sweep him downstream and submerge the cab in High River, Alberta on June 20, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. Hundreds of people have been evacuated with volunteers and emergency crews helping to aid stranded residents.

  • A resident is comforted by rescuers as she clutches her dog after being retrieved from the flood waters in High River, Alta. on June 20, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks.

  • Bragg Creek Flood 2013 House Breaking

    A video of a house shattering against the bridge during the first day of the 2013 flood in Bragg Creek. I offer my sincerest condolences to those who lost th...

  • A lone truck sits submerged in the flood waters near downtown High River, Alta. on June 20, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks.

  • Krystal Lelond of Black Diamond clutches her cat Pipi after being evacuated from her home after the Sheep River overflowed its banks.

  • An elderly woman is rescued from the flood waters in High River, Alta. on June 20, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks.

  • Debris and water pours across the Trans-Canada Highway as Canmore struggles with flooding.

  • A woman wades through the flood waters in High River, Alta. on June 20, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks.

  • Flooding in Black Diamond

  • This is the view of the bridge over the Highwood. Normally there is a couple metres clearance below it.

  • A kayaker paddles down a flooded street in High River, Alta. on June 20, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks.

  • One of several rock slides blocking #hwy40 in Kananaskis. No access to Kananaskis village.

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  • Residents wade through flood waters after an evacuation order following heavy rains caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuation in High River.

  • A helicopter carrying evacuated residents lands on a road in High river, Alta. Heavy rains have caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuation in High River, Alta., Thursday, June 20, 2013.

  • The Bow river swells over its banks in downtown Calgary, Alta. Heavy rains have caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuation in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, June 20, 2013.

  • The Bow river swells over its banks in downtown Calgary, Alta. Heavy rains have caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuation in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, June 20, 2013.

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Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith tweeted this photo of the rising waters of the Highwood River.

"This is the view of the bridge over the Highwood. Normally there is a couple metres clearance below it. #ableg #wrp"

southern alberta flooding

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You can find updates on various communities and their flood status at Alberta Emergency Alert http://www.emergencyalert.alberta.ca/

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Cougar Creek in Canmore is completely overrun by floods. High River, Black Diamond and Calgary are also facing quickly rising water levels. The latest on evacuations and warnings can be found in our story.

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From the Alberta Emergency Alert:

All residents in north west, south west and north east High River are under mandatory evacuation. Crews are working to reach residents in the Vista Mirage area. Information will be posted on the High River website at www.highriver.ca.

Evacuate immediately. Please go to Highwood High School on 12th Ave where the emergency evacuation centre has been opened.

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From Alberta Emergency Alert:

There is localized flooding in Town, beginning near the Foothills Lions Campground. Hwy 22 is closed near that location. Residents west of 1st St SW are being evacuated to the Reception Centre (Oilfields Arena). Power outages may follow. The Water Treatment Plant has been shut down due to flood & safety concerns. Residents are requested to conserve water.

Door to door notification of the evacuation is taking place. Donations of towels and blankets can be made at the Arena. Food donations may be required later in the day. The town is currently investigating sources of bottled water. More information.

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From the City of Calgary:

The decision was made by Deputy Mayor Richard Pootmans and Ald. John Mar to declare a SOLE based on the potential severity of the incoming high river flows in conjunction with expected heavy rainfall. The City of Calgary has begun to implement its flood response plans with the deployment of sandbags and temporary dams at key locations to protect property and infrastructure. The City is working to ensure the safety of Calgarians and asks for their patience and cooperation during this time. Citizens are reminded to: · Stay away from rivers and creeks as the water is rising and moving quickly, and banks may be unstable. · Avoid storm water ponds and storm drains, and do not let children play near them. · Do not drive through flooded areas such as underpasses. · If you experience basement seepage or overland flooding, call 3-1-1 to report. · If you or someone else is in imminent danger, call 9-1-1. Remember that 9-1-1 is for emergencies only; please use 3-1-1 for reporting non-emergency issues.

· Monitor local media and City of Calgary messages. For more information on flooding, visit calgary.ca/flooding.

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cougar creek

Photo: Wade Graham, Facebook

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Cougar Creek threatens homes with its mighty surge.

Video: Wade Graham, Facebook

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cougar creek canmore

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From Alberta Emergency Alerts:

There is a hazardous materials release threatening life and the environment. An sour gas pipeline rupture has caused a release of H2S in the Town of Turner Valley. Residents are ordered to protect in place. Emergency crews have evacuated the affected areas and will continue to monitor.

Instructions:

Move indoors and stay indoors. Prepare for possible evacuation. Seek medical attention if you experience breathing difficulties. Follow the directions of local authorities.

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"The City of Calgary has declared a state of emergency as expected heavy rainfall combined with the potential of incoming high river flows could become severe.

The city is implementing its flood response plan with the deployment of sandbags and temporary dams to protect property and infrastructure.

Calgarians are advised to stay away from rivers and creeks as rising water may makes banks unstable.

Driving through flooded areas such as underpasses or children playing near storm water ponds and drains should also be avoided."

More here.

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cougar creek

Photo credit: Lauren Wheeler

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Turner Valley, a community southwest of Calgary, was placed under an emergency alert Thursday after a sour gas pipeline ruptured. The alert urged people to move indoors and to prepare for a possible evacuation.

What is sour gas, exactly, and what's the harm? Read more here.

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Our friends up the hill got in a bit of a pickle today when they headed to Canmore to cover the flooding.

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The Town of High River is now under an emergency evacuation alert. There is extremely dangerous and rapid flooding occurring in High River. Authorities are warning residents to move to high ground.

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There is a threat of extremely dangerous and rapid flooding in the County of Lethbridge. The County of Lethbridge declared a local state of emergency at 11:10 a.m. and issued an evacuation order for residents living in the Oldman River valley.

An evacuee reception centre is at the County Administration building at #100, 905 4th Avenue South downtown.

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