So it's been 5 weeks since the flooding began, and while lots of people are back in their homes and getting on while dealing with water damaged basements, there are still so many who are totally displaced.
Many renters and apartment dwellers are dependent on their landlords to get things back in order (electrical work, water damage to underground parking or basements or ground level suites). Our City Hall buildings are still not fully functional and some other downtown towers still have problems with their lower levels.
The entire town of High River, about half an hour south of the city limits, is still a major disaster zone. There are two temporary trailer sites coming online as temporary housing for displaced people who cannot get back into their homes because they are so damaged or outright condemned because they were underwater till last week. Businesses are slowly coming back to serve the local population, but it is slow and hard work, and so many people cannot live in their own homes because of damage, lack of utilities (mostly electric--electricians are working round the clock on repairs), and mould.
To explain a little bit, most homes here have basements that are at least 4-5 feet but often 6-7 feet underground (any windows are set high in the walls right at outside ground level) because of the frost depth here--house footings need to extend below the frost line, and it is an easy way to increase living space to just dig the hole the entire size of the home for a basement. When the floods came, these basements (along with below-ground parking structures under downtown buildings and apartments) filled with water. So post-flood, all of the flooring/carpeting, drywall/plasterboard and insulation in these flooded portions of homes all has to be ripped out and allowed to dry to avoid mould buildup. In many homes this extended to the main ground level of the homes as well.
EVERYTHING from electronics to toys to anything upholstered etc. that was under water needed to be thrown out. Appliances like laundry machines, freezers and fridges, and stoves cannot be properly cleaned so must be disposed of (they go to a special area at the landfill where they are taken away for recycling). People have lost so much. Fortunately there have been companies that have donated hundreds of appliances and other items useful to the cleanup efforts, but there is so much that people have lost, so many basic necessities.
Unaffected people are starting to get tired of the news coverage and fewer volunteers are helping with the cleanup.
But it's literally going to take years for everyone to have a place to call home again, whether they repair/rebuild or relocate. If you are so inclined, please pray about the situation. Those most affected are children, the disabled and the elderly--people who rely on routine to make life make sense. In another month the new school year will begin, and some children will not be able to attend their schools--they will be shunted into other schools which will be more crowded than they should be.
Had the flood affected my current home, we would have been and continue to be in dire straights.
We have a basement under our split-level home, about 800 square feet of living and storage space, that is just over 5 feet below outside ground level--this would have totally filled with water.
Half of our basement houses the utility and storage room in the area under the lower portion of our main floor where the basement ceiling height is about 6 feet. This room is where we have our gas-fired forced air furnace and our electrical panel (gas meter and electric meter are on the outdoor foundation wall outside this room). This room is also where we keep our camping items, suitcases, and a few other seldom-used items under our stairs.
The rest of our basement is divided into a family room (two sofas, 3 bookshelves, our tv, and a closet where our kids' toys are stored plus our chest freezer in nook by the stairs), our spare bedroom (double bed, dresser, bedside table, upholstered chair, and a 2x8 foot closet full of canned and cold storage food), and a small bathroom.
All of this (food storage, furniture, books, toys, bedding & towels, freezer, furnace, tv, stored items etc.) would have been thrown out along with the carpet in the family room and bedroom, all of the drywall and insulation--down to 2x4 stud walls and metal posts holding up the upper stories. All of it. The electric panel would not be replaced/reconnected until demolition was complete and the space was dry.
We have hardwood floors on our main level, these would likely have needed to be torn out due to swelling. And if the water had extended above ground level, all flooring plus the drywall and insulation would need to be removed from the interior walls to a height at least a foot above the high water line. Same deal with our appliances and furniture on the main level--kitchen, dining room, laundry room, living room, powder room--everything would need to be thrown out. All we would be left with would be the contents of 3 bedrooms on the top level of our split-level home.
Had our car been trapped in our garage, as many were, it would not be fit for use--electronic components destroyed, upholstery full of mud and mould etc.
This is what the average home-owner in the city has dealt with/is still dealing with.
But in High River, the water got trapped in some neighborhoods for weeks and needed to be pumped out. So those houses, rather than just holding water for a few days, were under water for 3 weeks to a month and a bit more in some instances. The humidity throughout the home was super high during all that time, and those homes are full of mould on all levels--and very little inside those homes is salvageable. Many of those homes are or will be condemned and torn down.
So. Please pray (if that is something you do) for the people stuck in this nightmare. And please be thoughtful about how your own home is arranged. Where do you store your food? Your family photographs? Your first aid and emergency supplies? Your camping equipment?
Had we been evacuated, with enough time to pack up and leave in our car, we would have taken our camping equipment and photographs plus our first aid and emergency supplies, but everything else below ground (all my canning and cold garden storage) would have been lost. But if we had less than half an hour, or if the waters were already entering our home, we would have left with far less.
Moolie, I am so sorry for the people who are having such problems. What people don't realize is that when the news crews leave to go chase the next story, victims of natural disasters are not magically cured of all their problems. Some never recover and never get back to the level they were at before disaster struck. There are flood zones here too and in 1994, we had a major flood that made national news. President Bush #41 landed in a helicopter and did a fly over of all the damage. Many lost all they had and never recovered. I am so sorry for those that are in such dire straights.
Thanks Deb and Bay So sorry to hear how things went in your area Bay--1994 is a long time ago!
We're fortunate that our Prime Minister Stephen Harper is actually from here, and truly cares, and that the Premier of Alberta Alison Redford along with the other local Mayors have been working hard on this right from the start--government money came in quickly and is already creating temporary housing and getting infrastructure rolling again. But it will take years.
In particular, Calgary's Mayor Naheed Nenshi (along with the aldermen from the affected areas of the city) was in the trenches right from when the flooding began and didn't take a break till after 40 hours into the disaster. He was amazing, no doubt he will win the civic election this coming fall. Our City Hall is still unusable and city employees are working from several make-shift locations around town as the building is dried out and repaired.
that mayor sounds like the kind of leaders we need! Not the kind that cancels 4th of July celebrations because of the expense, then takes his extended family on a hugely expensive vacation to Africa! (naming no names)
Thank You Moolie for the great ideas on being more prepared. In this area we have had flash flood warnings for the last week and it looks like we will continue to have them for a few more days. Drove to an area today( for a baby shower) that had been hit hard last night and only 1 home had damage to the garage which was full of red mud , rocks and driftwood. The small wash at the base of the foothills could not handle the volume of water that was coming down. I was making mental notes looking at all of the mess and planning for just such an event. I live at the base of a mountain and a much larger creek is less than a block away. Prayer and positive energy are being sent.
Britesea, the floods came almost exactly two weeks before our big annual Calgary Stampede, and despite all of the devastation and the fact that the grounds are in one of the hardest hit areas, the Stampede organization hired out of province flood-remediation teams (so as to not take volunteers and local companies away from the residential efforts) in order to get the grounds ready for the event.
Stampede is like a super giant state fair that lasts 11 days with a big opening parade, a rodeo, stage shows, animal exhibits like sheep dog trials, one year they even had medieval jousting (which was super fun to watch!), rock and country music concerts, a midway with rides and game booths, a big food area, and an evening show with fireworks. And they pulled it off, except that the arena (the Saddledome) where the concerts were to take place couldn't be cleaned and repaired in time for the concerts so those were either postponed or moved to nearby cities. Calgary definitely kept up its civic spirit and hosted like nothing much had happened--and locals took it all in to get away from it all.
And this week we have Folk Fest on an island in the river next to downtown that was totally flooded, and it's also going ahead despite the devastation.
Corn Woman, I don't know if your "wash" is as big as the one in Canmore, but here are a couple of before and after photos I found to show what happened there (hope they're not too big!)
Before (from the bottom of the hill)
The second photo (after) is taken from the top of the hill)
You can see how much land was eroded away--there used to be quite a green belt between the houses and the creek, and now everything is washed away to the foundations of the homes.
Moolie, et. al.
That is truly an impressive sight. I had to look at it several times because I couldn't get a perspective until I saw the culvert through which the water is supposed to flow. Looking "downstream" to the devastation it appears that the folks whose homes are on the left of the photo got a lot more damage than those on the right. It certainly impresses one with the belief that being able to have emergency equipment on hand even if for nothing but to be able to get out of there quickly and go to higher ground or safer environment.
By the way, I also noticed one of the things about your area that always impressed me. The homes and yards are so neatly manicured and kept up. I have always been impressed by that when I have been anywhere "North of the Border". I spent some time in Halifax and a few other areas of Canada including Calgary (my plane broke and my crew was "stuck" he he he! We enjoyed every minute of that entire week waiting for the silly part to arrive.) What a gorgeous city!
It is still a beautiful place and the people there appear to be very proud of their homes and gardens. I am saddened to see such devastation to such a beautiful place.
The first shot of the wash looking up into the mountains was truly breath taking. How beautiful!
Sorry it has been damaged.
We "stand on guard for thee" with you.
Saepe Expertus, Semper Fidelis, Fratres Aeterni