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The Flood Of 2013

Jul 24, 2013 - 6 years ago

By Supply Post

When the worst flood in recent history hit southern Alberta, crews and equipment sprang into action.

By Graham Chandler

Wednesday June 19th: Environment Canada issues a forecast of up to 120 mm of rain from a unique low-pressure system between Banff and Waterton Park, Alberta. Before day’s end, local amounts of 200 mm fall—on top of a rare ‘rain-on-snow’ event which adds another 120 mm of snow-water equivalent to the deluge. The wee hours of Thursday see flood watch warnings issued for the Bow River basin and the Sheep River as another 150 mm pour down. Normally trickling Cougar Creek in Canmore rages into a torrent, damaging homes, 40 or 50 of which will be permanent, and the TransCanada Highway washes out.

As the high water charges downstream, High River declares a state of emergency and mandatory evacuation, and soon areas of Calgary and Okotoks follow suit. The day wears on and more low-lying Calgary communities are mandatorily evacuated—a total of 27 communities and over 100,000 people. Southern Alberta’s worst flood in modern history was under way.

Fred Desjarlais, VP of Volker Stevin Canada— contracted to maintain southern Alberta highways— says they knew it was coming, but the sheer aggression and volume caught them a little off guard. “Our guys have a lot of experience with floods and weather-related problems, but the hair on the back of their necks was standing up when they saw this coming,” he says. “As the storm was developing and the water was rising we were dispatching equipment like excavators and loaders to a number of sites.” Importantly, detours and sign packages were also deployed.

"There’s not a lot you can do when the water is rushing other than using hoes and excavators to try and keep barriers from building up in front of drainage courses, culverts and bridges," says Desjarlais. “But as the water started to subside we were really staffing up and getting our equipment up: excavators, dozers, loaders, rock trucks, gravel trucks.” Other main highways washed out were 40, 66, 22 and 758. Resources were rapidly redeployed as water volumes flashed eastward to Calgary.

In Calgary, Tervita, an environmental and energy services company, geared up to prepare the Stampede grounds, now under metres of water, for opening just two weeks away. Graham Sharpe, Tervita’s Flood Relief Director leapt into action organizing restoration, cleaning, and drying the 20 buildings that would be needed for the event. “It was pretty labour intensive,” he says. “We were using bobcats, mini-excavators, lots of pumping units, dehydrators, waste disposals, bins and haulers.” His crews and subcontractors worked 24/7. "We also did a lot of rail response," he adds. For that they used larger pumps, excavators and rock trucks. "That was a big effort with 50 pieces of large heavy equipment."

Full rebuilding and recovery is still in early stages. Heidi Harris-Jensen, Director of External Affairs for the Alberta Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association, says, "It's going to be long and I'm sure some of it's going to be frustrating, and expensive."


Just a few of the many organizations that stepped up with funding and support:
• Red Cross: flood relief donations over $13 million and growing
• Shane Homes: $100,000 plus equipment like generators and bobcats
• Calgary Foundation: formed Flood Recovery & Rebuilding Fund
• Duracell trucks: batteries and charging systems
• Community Kitchen Program
• Calgary Boys and Girls Club: helping youth in centres
• The Salvation Army
• The Samaritans’ Purse Canada
• Canadian Lutheran World Relief
• Pet Valu stores: Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue
• United Way of Calgary: Emergency Community Support Fund
• University of Calgary: hundreds of displaced people put up in campus residences
• Scores of energy firms including Suncor Energy, Petro-Canada, Shell Canada, Spectra Energy, Imperial Oil, Statoil Canada and countless more.

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