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More than 75,000 Calgarians evacuated as flood emergency continues

City officials say power and full access to the downtown may not be restored until mid next week.
City officials say power and full access to the downtown may not be restored until mid next week.

Staff writers

June 22, 2013 — Some of Calgary's thousands of evacuees were being allowed home Saturday morning, but a full return to normalcy after Friday's devastating floods won't be in the cards for quite some time yet.

Discovery Ridge is one of more than a dozen Calgary neighbourhoods ordered evacuated yesterday as the Bow and Elbow rivers began to rise, and now residents of the higher elevations have been given the green light to head home.

But that's a comparative handful of the more than 75,000 people that were ordered to safety during the worst of it, and the city's mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has warned that full access to the badly-hit downtown likely won't be restored until mid-week.

Some 30,000 people were without power Saturday morning, and many downtown roads and bridges were closed as a precaution, with all non-essential travel in the area discouraged.

Major city landmarks are among the numerous buildings partially submerged by the floodwaters.

Part of the interior of the Saddledome, home to the Calgary Flames, was swamped by the risen waters.

And the Calgary Stampede Grounds were a muddy, flooded mess, although Nenshi said the city still hoped to be ready for the iconic Calgary Stampede in July.

But despite the damage, the city says its water supply is still safe to use and drink, although people have been asked to limit water use.

Water levels are still high, but flows on the Elbow River were expected to decrease by 60 per cent over the next 48 hours, while flows on the larger Bow River were forecast to go down by 25 per cent over that same period.

Social media played a large role in public communication as the floodwaters rose.

When the city of Calgary's website crashed due to high traffic, a separate news blog was set up, with regular updates from city authorities on road and bridge closures.

And Mayor Nenshi was quite visible throughout the ordeal, so much so that when he announced he was heading to bed after 43 hours awake and monitoring the situation, residents of the city started a #nap4nenshi hashtag.

The Weather Network's Kelsey McEwen and Farah Dhalla continue to provide coverage of the ongoing flood situation on TV this weekend.

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