Alberta Flooding 2013: 65,000 Calgarians To Return Home (PHOTOS, VIDEO, LIVEBLOG)

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About 65,000 Calgarians were being allowed to return to their homes Sunday to assess the damage from flooding that has left Alberta's largest city awash in debris and dirty water.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi gave strict orders about what to watch for as residents re-entered their neighbourhoods, but he also redirected people's focus downstream. He said communities such as Medicine Hat were still bracing for the fury of flooding and his city would offer whatever assistance it could.

"We've turned a corner, but we are still in a state of emergency," he said. "Our hearts and thought and prayers are with our colleagues downstream.

Some Calgarians were returning to properties spared by flooding, but others were facing extensive repairs to homes and businesses. About 75,000 people had to leave at the height of the crisis as the Elbow and Bow rivers surged over their banks Thursday night.


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Nenshi spoke firmly at Sunday's news briefing about how people should go about checking their properties.

He advised them to turn around if water were still evident on streets and sidewalks and said that under no circumstances should they enter homes if water welled over entry ways.

"If the road and sidewalk are not dry, or if there is flood water when you open the door, leave immediately." he said. "If there is water above electrical outlets, leave immediately.

"Electricity and water do not mix. Be very careful."

He suggested homeowners use letter-sized sheets of paper taped to windows to communicate with utility workers: "Gas needed. Electricity needed. Water-pumping needed."

"I know people are excited to get home. I know people really need to see the conditions of their houses. But remember, safety first."

Nenshi said crews were working hard to restore services and he thanked Calgarians for heeding the call to conserve drinking water.

He had already warned that recovery will be a matter of ``weeks and months'' and the damage costs will be "lots and lots."

While pockets of the city's core were drying out, other areas were still submerged. The mayor didn't anticipate that anyone could return to work downtown until at least the middle of the week.

Public schools were also to remain closed Monday.

Prince Edward Island's transport minister called the city offering help from the province's engineers to ensure that Calgary's bridges are safe.

Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths said that 27 communities overall were under states of emergency _ some areas slowly starting to emerge from the watery onslaught and others still bracing for it.

Three bodies have been recovered since the flooding began and a fourth person was still missing.

Griffiths said no place has been hit harder than the town of High River south of Calgary and it will be some time before residents there will be allowed back.

The waiting and worrying were causing tensions and emotions to run high, but Griffiths said virtually every home in the town if 18,000 would need to be inspected.

"We want to make sure that every person who has been dislocated is safe."

Tensions were also rising downstream and to the east where 10,000 people in Medicine Hat's flood zone were instructed to head for higher ground as the powerful South Saskatchewan River rose.

The river was not expected to crest until Monday, but by Sunday morning it was lapping over its banks in low-lying areas and people were busy laying down thousands of sandbags.

A spokesman for the city of more than 60,000 said a park and several seniors recreational centres had been cleared out in anticipation of flooding and parts of the city near the river had been closed. Police were patrolling those areas.

The South Saskatchewan slices through Medicine Hat and three bridges connect the two halves. Officials were warning that two of the bridges would be closed and traffic could potentially be barred from the third as well, cutting off the two sides from each other.

Mayor Norm Boucher said most people ordered to leave had done so, but a handful were refusing. He warned that officials could not guarantee their safety.

"We're going to go around again to make sure that they're out of there, because the water will be even higher than this and it may be very difficult to reach anybody,'' said Boucher.

Ron Robinson, director of emergency measures, was asked if people could be forcibly removed from their homes.

Yes, he replied. "They can be fined, they can be jailed. We need to protect lives even if they don't want us to."

Alberta's premier urged the community to stay strong.

"This is going to be a very challenging time for Medicine Hat," Alison Redford said on a visit there Saturday evening.

"There's going to be a lot of uncertainty and people are going to be afraid. I want people to know we have the opportunity to get through this."

Back in Calgary, emergency measures chief Bruce Burrell warned that despite the improving situation, the city was still in emergency mode.

"We made it to this point with no serious injuries," he added. "Let's keep it that way."

The water has taken a toll outside residential neighbourhoods as well. The Saddledome hockey arena, home of the NHL's Calgary Flames, was extensively damaged. The teams has said boards, dressing rooms, player equipment and several rows of seats are a total loss.

The rodeo and fair grounds of the world-famous Calgary Stampede were also swamped, although Nenshi was optimistic that things would be cleared up in time for the show to open July 5.

Nenshi said Sunday that all the major hotels in the downtown were closed and advised visitors to plan accordingly.

The federal Conservative party had planned to hold a policy convention in Calgary next weekend, but that's been postponed and a new date hasn't yet been set.

The mountain town of Canmore was one of the first communities hit when the flooding began on Thursday. Residents there have been allowed to return to 260 evacuated homes, but RCMP say 40 more are too damaged to allow people back.

In High River, about 350 members of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry from Edmonton have been assisting RCMP in reaching homes that still haven't been checked. Armoured vehicles have been churning through submerged streets and Zodiac watercraft have been used to reach the hardest-hit areas.

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

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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

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

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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.


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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