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Albertans grapple with flood devastation, social media saving lives


Complete devastation in Alberta neighbourhoods
Complete devastation in Alberta neighbourhoods

Staff writers

June 21, 2013 — Rain-swollen rivers burst their banks across southern Alberta on Thursday, devastating several communities and leaving residents in complete disbelief.

Additional rainfall expected
Additional rainfall expected

"I woke up at about three o'clock in morning to the sound of this kind of rumbling and it was the creek," said Wade Graham of Canmore. "All you can hear is like boulders and trees. I watched a refrigerator go by, I watched a shed go by, I watched couches go by. It's insane." 

Between 50-150 mm of rain has fallen over the last couple of days, washing out roads, resulting in mudslides and making travel next to impossible.

"I woke up at about three o'clock in morning to the sound of this kind of rumbling and it was the creek," said Wade Graham of Canmore. "All you can hear is like boulders and trees. I watched a refrigerator go by, I watched a shed go by, I watched couches go by. It's insane." 

Between 50-150 mm of rain has fallen over the last couple of days, washing out roads, resulting in mudslides and making travel next to impossible.

More than a dozen towns declared states of emergency, with entire communities such as High River and Bragg Creek under mandatory evacuation orders.

In the City of Calgary, officials started a series of rolling evacuations they estimated would result in 100,000 people being forced from their homes. Calgarians were also asked to mark their front doors with a giant X so that emergency crews and first responders wouldn't have to stop at homes that were already emptied. 

The Weather Network's Kelsey McEwen was in High River on Thursday where the mayor said three-quarters of his town was under water. 

"People in downtown High River couldn't get out of their homes," said McEwen. "They were being rescued by huge trucks and brought to the evacuation centre at Highwood High School." 

Later Thursday afternoon, that evacuation centre was evacuated. 

"Buses have been made available to transport evacuees to the Recreation Complex in Nanton. Several facilities have been made available to accommodate the influx," read a media release from town officials.

The Canadian Armed Forces have been called in to give assistance to the flood areas. The military sent two helicopters and a Hercules aircraft to assist in extracting people who are stranded. 

The City of Edmonton also got in on the act, saying it will send 100 police officers to Calgary Friday.

Social media saving lives 

Several residents have been scrambling to find loved ones amid the flood chaos and devastation. 

"I don't know where my husband is," said Sharon Brown of High River on Thursday. "The phone lines are down, there's no way to reach him." 

Others have been relying on the powers of social media, some saying it's even helped to save lives. 

"I woke up to a phone call this morning from my mom in tears saying the water had just started to appear in the streets, there was a flood, she was home alone and the water was just starting to come into the basement," says High River resident Craig James. "My dad was out for breakfast with some of his friends on the other side of town...He shows up after having walked across town, but as a 75-year-old man, he can't cross this torrential six foot deep water and was stuck out across at the neighbour's place for two hours, watching the water slowly take over his whole house." 

Craig says he reached out on Facebook and Twitter in an effort to find help for his parents. His prayers (Tweet) was answered and his parents were finally rescued by boat.

Rain to gradually ease 

As the scene continued to worsen across western Canada on Thursday, Weather Network meteorologist Rob Davis helped to answer how a weather event like this could happen

Now most people are wondering, when will it end? 

With some areas already seeing over 100 mm of rain since Wednesday night, the heaviest rain is expected in regions north and west of Calgary Friday.

"An additional 10-25 mm is expected in these regions, but the rain should continue to taper off Friday night and into Saturday," says Gerald Cheng, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

With files from The Canadian Press

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