ALBERTA

Canmore Flooding Turns Short Stay Into Long Ordeal (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

06/23/2013 07:00 EDT | Updated 08/23/2013 05:12 EDT
CANMORE, Alta. - Michael Bednar was only planning to spend a single night in Canmore, but as the rain started falling and the water rose, he knew the pain in his abdomen was more than just a simple stomach bug.

He walked three blocks in the rain to the local hospital, where tests revealed he had appendicitis. He had emergency surgery to remove it on Wednesday afternoon.

On Saturday, he was still in Canmore, discharged from the partially-flooded hospital and holed up in a hotel room in a community where highway traffic in and out remained closed.

"The entire hospital is surrounded by a moat, and when I was still in there, the basement of the hospital had flooded. We couldn't get meals because the kitchen was in the basement," said Bednar, speaking by phone from his hotel.

"They were just trying to do whatever they could. They were making toast and boiling eggs upstairs. It didn't really affect me too much because I really couldn't eat anyways," he added.

Bednar, a freelance photographer, was hoping to be in Vancouver on Friday to attend the Western Magazine Awards, for which he'd been nominated. He said the weather was fine when he checked into his hotel on Tuesday.

But on Wednesday while he waited for surgery, he could tell the situation in Canmore was far from normal.

"The hospital staff was obviously dealing with a lot. That night the power was cutting in and out. They were dealing with all kinds of issues. You could tell the staff were under a lot of stress," Bednar explained about the scene that unfolded as he came out of the anaesthetic.

"I woke up the next morning to the madness that I'm surrounded by still — that everybody's stranded here and Canmore is basically an island without access to the outside world."

Bednar said he learned that his appendix had burst while the surgeon was removing it. He was OK, but he said hospital staff said they were low on supplies and that they might have to evacuate to the high school.

That never happened, and he was eventually discharged on Friday. He said the hospital needed the space, and he was able to leave because he was lucky enough to find a hotel.

A local man with a pickup truck who he knows only as "Alan" volunteered to drive him through the water that surrounded the hospital to his hotel.

RCMP said late Saturday that they were allowing some traffic to leave the community on the Trans-Canada Highway, but that speeds were restricted to 60 kilometres per hour and passing wouldn't be permitted.

Bednar said he was able to get out for a short walk on Saturday. The water from the Bow River had receded and he could see debris scattered along its banks. Restaurants and businesses were surrounded by water. He said he's heard damage is worse at Cougar Creek but he hadn't been down to see it.

He managed to get to a supermarket, where he said there were long lineups and a shortage of bottled water.

Bednar said he's heard a shuttle later this weekend might be able to take him on a roundabout route to Calgary, but he said the journey would be six to eight hours instead of being under an hour, which is what it takes under normal circumstances.

"With my surgery, the slightest jar is quite painful at the moment," said Bednar.

"I'm sore and stranded but surviving."