HIGH RIVER, Alta. - It's not just people who want to go back to their homes in flood-ravaged High River in southern Alberta — hundreds of four-legged evacuees are waiting to be reunited with their owners and to return to more familiar surroundings.

When the 13,000 residents of the town south of Calgary were forced from their homes a week ago, up to 2,000 dogs, cats, birds and even lizards were left behind. A mandatory evacuation and the swiftness with which waters rose meant that many people weren't able to retrieve their furry or feathered friends.

Police and military officials rescued many of the critters. Organizations such as the Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue Foundation, located just a few kilometres southwest of High River, have helped with rescues and given the animals a temporary home.

The rural facility is anything but peaceful right now. There's a cacophony of barking, yelping, yowling and meowing. It's been a stressful time for shelter founder Kim Hessel.

"You just do what you need to do. You keep things organized. I'm trying to get as much information (as possible) to people about the status of their animals," she said as she gave The Canadian Press a tour of the shelter she founded in 1999.

"People need to have a better idea of what's going on so that the panic goes away and they feel they have a chance of getting their animals back."

High River's bylaw service has reported that more than 400 pets have been rescued so far and removed from water-soaked homes. Unfortunately rescuers also have found that hundreds have died.

"That's a sad reality of course in any natural disaster," said an emotional Hessel.

"I know it couldn't be avoided and I'm sure a lot of those are a result of rushing water ... but nobody wants to think that their animal has died a tragic death."

For the first few days most of the pets returned to their owners were dogs. But now the sanctuary is full of cats curled up quietly in pet carriers stacked one on top of the other in Hessel's garage.

Most of the owners have been contacted but there are other shelters, including one in nearby Cayley as well as the facilities at the Calgary Humane Society, that have animals as well. In some cases it's just a matter of luck.

"This one lady was in and didn't even know her cats were here, and she kind of turned around the corner and I've never seen a reaction like that before," said shelter worker Debbie Pedersen.

"I started crying and she started crying."

Photos of pets are being posted on the Facebook pages for both Heaven Can Wait and Cyndi's Pet Palace.

Hessel is on the phone constantly and was expecting another dropoff of animals.

"Honestly, I'm not really worried about numbers. We're getting as many as we can, keeping them safe, getting them numbered so we know where they belong.

"We're going to call people. I think people are anxious enough that if I call them and tell them, 'Your cat is here. Come now' that they're going to come. At least I'm hoping they will."

Stephanie McQuaid has been involved in a number of rescues with police and soldiers going door to door. She said the devastation is pretty tough to take in, but there is a bright spot when you find a pet alive and well.

"It breaks your heart to see all the damage that has been done, but there's a lot of happy stories with them going home," she said.

"That kind of fills your heart up a little bit. For me, that's been the happy spot seeing people come back for their animals."

The rapidly rising Highwood River burst its banks June 20 and surged through neighbourhoods. A number of people and pet rescues were by boat.

Hessel said despite the successes she isn't feeling any personal sense of satisfaction.

"Right this second? No I don't. I feel like I can't do enough.

"I feel that we can't reach enough and I feel like I can't give all the people I'm talking to enough of my time," she said.

"This is not satisfying in any way. This is difficult, hard stuff and there's a lot of big emotion going on."

For more information: Kim Hessel at Heaven Can Wait - 403-660-4744

www.facebook.com/pages/Heaven-Can-Wait-Animal-Rescue-Foundation/1485869

Cyndi's Pet Palace

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Foothills-Pet-Resort-Spaw/117509785000003

Calgary Humane Society

http://www.calgaryhumane.ca

Loading Slideshow...
  • RCMP at the road block on the highway outside of Canmore, Alta.

  • Streets remain submerged in High River, Alta.

  • High levels of water continue to make conditions dangerous in High River.

  • Dark and murky water hides many hazards on the streets of High River, Alta.

  • Pet alley at Blackie for residents to sleep with pets.

  • Canmore, Alberta on Saturday June 22.

  • RCMP and numerous truckers rescued by helicopter as flood waters washed out the Hwy 1 near Canmore, Alberta.

  • Hugs for displaced people at the Blackie Evacuation Centre.

  • Flooded streets in southern Alberta community.

  • Emergency workers in High River, Alberta.

  • Road Block in High River, Alberta

  • Houses in some areas of High River, Alta. are still severely flooded.

  • Roadways unsafe as flood waters scatter debris and damage streets in High River, Alberta.

  • RCMP Helicopter at High River, Alberta.

  • Advising drivers in High River, Alberta

  • Flooded streets in High River, Alberta

  • Damaged roads in High River, Alberta

  • RCMP in High River, Alberta

  • More photos of the Alberta flood

  • Monica West carries damaged goods out of a souvenir shop as clean-up crews work at the Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on Tuesday, June 25, 2013. Heavy rains caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuations across Southern Alberta. Calgary Zoo staff risked their lives over the weekend to stop a hippo from escaping into the swollen Bow River. Director of animal care, conservation and research, Jake Veasey, says flood waters in the hippos' enclosure rose high enough during the floods for the dangerous herbivores to swim out. One hippo named Lobi was feeling particularly adventurous and was moving freely around the African Savannah building. Veasey had to break a window to get into the building and he swam in the muddy flood waters to find the animal. Zoo staff used cinder blocks and construction equipment to block Lobi inside the building. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)

  • A muddied research book dries as clean-up crews work at the Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on Tuesday, June 25, 2013. Heavy rains caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuations across Southern Alberta. Calgary Zoo staff risked their lives over the weekend to stop a hippo from escaping into the swollen Bow River. Director of animal care, conservation and research, Jake Veasey, says flood waters in the hippos' enclosure rose high enough during the floods for the dangerous herbivores to swim out. One hippo named Lobi was feeling particularly adventurous and was moving freely around the African Savannah building. Veasey had to break a window to get into the building and he swam in the muddy flood waters to find the animal. Zoo staff used cinder blocks and construction equipment to block Lobi inside the building. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)

  • A soldier walks by a pile of speedboats in High River, Alberta on Tuesday, June 25, 2013. High River was hit by a devastating flood on June 20 which caused a mass evacuation of the entire town although some residents chose to defy the order. Alberta's premier pledged $1 billion on Monday to help people recover from the floods. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jordan Verlage)

  • Clean-up crews work at the Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on Tuesday, June 25, 2013. Heavy rains caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuations across Southern Alberta. Calgary Zoo staff risked their lives over the weekend to stop a hippo from escaping into the swollen Bow River. Director of animal care, conservation and research, Jake Veasey, says flood waters in the hippos' enclosure rose high enough during the floods for the dangerous herbivores to swim out. One hippo named Lobi was feeling particularly adventurous and was moving freely around the African Savannah building. Veasey had to break a window to get into the building and he swam in the muddy flood waters to find the animal. Zoo staff used cinder blocks and construction equipment to block Lobi inside the building. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)

  • Wreckage lies along Center Street in High River, Alberta on Tuesday, June 25, 2013. High River was hit by a devastating flood on June 20 which caused a mass evacuation of the entire town although some residents chose to defy the order. Alberta's premier pledged $1 billion on Monday to help people recover from the floods. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jordan Verlage)

  • A road crew foreman surveys the washed-out lanes of northbound MacLeod Trail in Calgary, Alta., Monday, June 24, 2013. Heavy rains caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuations across Southern Alberta. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)

  • Thaya Gallant

    Thaya Gallant helps with the flood clean-up at a law office in Calgary, Alta., Monday, June 24, 2013. Heavy rains caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuations across Southern Alberta. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)

  • Calgary firefighters check on home as residents and volunteers are in clean up mode in the community of Bowness as most of the homes have been pumped out with still some remaining submerged in water in Calgary, Alberta on Monday, June 24, 2013. Alberta's premier pledged $1 billion on Monday to help people recover from floods that devastated parts of the western Canadian province. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

  • People watch as the river peaks, causing flooding in Medicine hat, Alta., on Monday, June 24, 2013. Officials in Medicine Hat said Monday they believe water levels on the South Saskatchewan River have peaked and that flooding won't be as severe as initially feared. Roughly 10,000 people were evacuated as the city of 60,000 prepared for the surge of water that swamped Calgary and surrounding areas last week. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

  • Residents and volunteers are in clean up mode in the community of Bowness as most of the homes have been pumped out with still some remaining submerged in water in Calgary, Alberta on Monday, June 24, 2013. Alberta's premier pledged $1 billion on Monday to help people recover from floods that devastated parts of the western Canadian province. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

  • Lisa Nguyen

    Resident Lisa Nguyen, right, cleans of the mud from photographs and negatives as volunteer Jacinta Babbitt, left, shows a clean picture of Nguyen when she was younger during flood clean up in the community of Bowness in Calgary, Alberta on Monday, June 24, 2013. Alberta's premier pledged $1 billion on Monday to help people recover from floods that devastated parts of the western Canadian province. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

  • Residents and volunteers are in flood clean up mode in the community of Bowness in Calgary, Alberta on Monday, June 24, 2013. Alberta's premier pledged $1 billion on Monday to help people recover from floods that devastated parts of the western Canadian province. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

  • Daniel Boddy, nine, helps with the clean-up work as hose lines from pumps drain water from flooded basement in the Bridgeland neighborhood in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, June 23, 2013. Heavy rains caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuation across Southern Alberta.

  • Daniel Boddy, nine, helps with the clean-up work as hose lines from pumps drain water from flooded basement in the Bridgeland neighborhood in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, June 23, 2013. Heavy rains caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuation across Southern Alberta.

  • A boy crosses a silt covered street in Chinatown as clean-up crews work in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, June 23, 2013. Heavy rains caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuation across Southern Alberta.

  • People place sand bags as the river rises rapidly and begins flooding in Medicine Hat, Alberta, on Sunday, June 23, 2013.

  • Homeowner Glenn Tibbles looks at the damage done by floodwaters to his home near downtown Calgary, Alberta, on Sunday, June 23, 2013. About 65,000 residents of Calgary 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.

  • Cpl. Brett Martens from CFB Edmonton helps a resident clear out damaged debris from their home near downtown Calgary, Alberta, on Sunday, June 23, 2013. About 65,000 residents of Calgary 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.

  • A home is inundated with floodwaters on the Siksika First Nation, Alberta, on Sunday, June 23, 2013. Alberta's municipal affairs minister says 27 communities are under a state of emergency as some areas begin to recover from flooding while others are still bracing for it.

  • People watch as the river rises rapidly and begins flooding in Medicine Hat, Alta., on Sunday, June 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

  • Floodwaters inundate homes in Medicine Hat, Alberta, on Sunday, June 23, 2013. Alberta's municipal affairs minister says 27 communities are under a state of emergency as some areas begin to recover from flooding while others are still bracing for it.

  • Police officers close a bridge as a military helicopter patrols the the area as the river rises rapidly and begins flooding in Medicine Hat, Alberta on Sunday, June 23, 2013.

  • Homeowner Glenn Tibbles looks at the damage done by flood waters to his home near downtown Calgary, Alta., Sunday, June 23, 2013.

  • People help a friend move furniture and personal belongings out of his mud-soaked basement near downtown Calgary, Alta., Sunday, June 23, 2013.

  • Homeowner Glenn Tibbles looks at the damage done by floodwaters to his home near downtown Calgary, Alta., Sunday, June 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

  • Cpl. Brett Martens from CFB Edmonton helps a resident clear out damaged debris from their home near downtown Calgary, Alta., Sunday, June 23, 2013.

  • Residents near downtown Calgary, Alta. load bins with their mud-soaked belongings on Sunday, June 23, 2013.

  • Nathan and Sarah MacBey carry a suitcase of clean dry clothes from their home after the waters receded in Calgary's southend Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • Nathan and Sarah MacBey tour their flooded home for the first time since the waters receded in Calgary's southend Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • Furniture is tossed around a flooded home and is seen after the waters receded in Calgary's southend Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • Sarah MacBey pauses for a moment as she walks through her flooded home for the first time since the waters receded in Calgary's southend Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • Sarah MacBey picks up a mud covered book that she had made for her husband for fathers day as she tours her flooded home for the first time since the waters receded in Calgary's southend Saturday, June 22, 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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