HIGH RIVER, Alta. - Abandoned vehicles, smashed out windows and total devastation make this flood ravaged town closely resemble a war zone, right down to the soldiers and rumble of military vehicles on the streets.

The flood waters that overran the community south of Calgary on Thursday are receding but mainstreet is littered with several abandoned vehicles. There's a sour smell in the air, and the ground is covered with mud. A lazy boy rocking chair was sitting in the middle of one intersection.

The windows in a shop were smashed, perhaps from the force of the water, and the merchandise may have floated out the door. The Royal Bank across the street seemed undamaged.

Just how far the water has fallen is evident by the watermark on the wall at Pine Tree Place, which is home to a number of businesses. It appeared the water had dropped by close to two metres.

About 350 members of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry from Edmonton were assisting local RCMP in reaching homes that still have not been checked. Light Armoured Vehicles were driving through water clogged streets. Several Zodiacs were being used to reach the harder hit areas.

"We have a number of engineers with some boats, some diving capabilities but really it's a source of labour," said Lieut.-Col. Nick Grimshaw, the Commanding Officer, PPCLI 1st Battalion,.

"We're helping them get into areas that are inaccessible by normal means so we can use our assault boats to do that or our armoured vehicles to move through some of the tighter areas."

Getting to areas under water is dangerous said Col. Grimshaw.

"It's always dangerous working in a disaster area. A lot of the dangers are potentially working under the water whether they're sinkholes or powerlines. It is dangerous work but we have soldiers who are trained to use their equipment quite well."

A state of emergency was declared on Thursday in High River as rising floodwaters from the nearby Highwood River burst over the banks. In a matter of minutes, the rush of water turned much of the town into a raging river - forcing residents to jump from their cars or await rescue.

Thirteen-thousand residents were subjected to a mandatory evacuation.

A number of townspeople have refused to leave their homes. RCMP officers and soldiers have urged them to rethink their position when they go door-to-door but won't forcibly remove them unless there's an indication they are in danger.

"It's a case by case basis. We'll assess that at the time," said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Marianne Ryan.

"If there are people we feel are at risk. We'll take the appropriate action."

High River is sealed off except for emergency personnel in an effort to protect property and reduce risks. Members of the media were taken into the downtown on Saturday for a look at the carnage.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford made a quick tour of the downtown. Pointing to the street behind her she said it saddens her to see what has happened.

"This is a street where people lived and people shopped and where people grew up for generations," said Redford.

"The world changed two days ago. It changed for families, it changed for businesses. It's very sad."

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  • Military troops are briefed before heading in to the flood zone in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage

  • Alberta Premier Alison Redford surveys the flood damage in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage

  • A convoy of military vehicles makes its way through a flooded highway before heading in to the flood zone in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage

  • Photographers take photos of destroyed downtown shops in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage

  • Troops are briefed before heading in to the flood zone in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage

  • A couple on an ATV drives through a flooded driveway just north of High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage

  • A convoy of military vehicles makes its way through a flooded highway before heading in to the flood zone in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage

  • Hutterites from the Parkland Colony survey the flood zone in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage

  • A convoy of military vehicles makes its way through a flooded highway before heading in to the flood zone in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage

  • Alberta Premier Alison Redford surveys the flood damage in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage

  • A convoy of military vehicles makes its way through a flooded highway before heading in to the flood zone in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage

  • Military vehicles lines the street as troops are briefed before heading in to the flood zone in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage


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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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