Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Water recedes after Canada floods

The Calgary Stampede grounds immersed in water during heavy flooding in Calgary (AP/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
The Calgary Stampede grounds immersed in water during heavy flooding in Calgary (AP/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
The two rivers that converge on Calgary are starting to recede after floods devastated much of the southern Alberta province (AP/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
Cars are submerged by the flood waters in High River, Alberta (AP/The Canadian Press, Jordan Verlage)
A truck sits submerged in the flood waters near downtown High River, Altberta (AP/The Canadian Press, Jordan Verlage)

As water levels dropped in the western Canadian city of Calgary, residents returned to muddy, waterlogged homes on Sunday to assess the damage from flooding that has devastated much of Alberta, causing at least three deaths and forcing thousands to evacuate.

In Medicine Hat, Alberta, thousands of people have left their homes as water levels rose on the South Saskatchewan River. The river is not expected to peak until Monday morning.

To the west, in Calgary, vacated neighbourhoods along the swollen Bow and Elbow rivers were showing signs of life again as displaced residents started to trickle home. Some of the 75,000 flood evacuees from more than 24 areas were returning to properties spared by the flooding, but many are facing extensive repairs to homes and businesses.

Nathan MacBey and his wife found muddy water had risen to about kitchen counter level in their Calgary home at the peak of the flooding. His basement is still swamped and the main floor of the home is covered in wet mud. "This is unprecedented," said the father-of-two.

The flooding forced authorities to evacuate Calgary's entire downtown and hit some of the city's iconic structures hard. The Saddledome, home to the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames, was flooded up to the 8th row of the lower bowl.

Flames' president and chief executive officer Ken King said the flooding had caused a total loss on the event level with all mechanical equipment submerged under 15ft of water. "If you were a hockey player walking out of the tunnel to the ice, you'd be underwater yourself," he said.

Water lapped at the roof of the chuckwagon barns at the grounds of the Calgary Stampede, which is scheduled to start in two weeks. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said the city will do everything it can to make sure that the world-renowned party goes ahead.

Overflowing rivers on Thursday and Friday washed out roads and bridges, soaked homes and turned streets into dirt-brown waterways around southern Alberta. The mountain town of Canmore, Alberta, was one of the first communities hit when the flooding began.

Residents have been allowed to return to 260 evacuated homes in Canmore but police said 40 more are too damaged to allow people back.

John Marriott lost his backyard when a raging river roared right up to the foundation of his house. "It's still a lot better than watching it flow away in the creek, which I thought it was going to be," said the wildlife photographer. "I don't want to relocate but I guess you do what you have to do. It's just a house."

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