Unfortunately, there have been way too many ‘floods of the century’ these days all around the world. I don’t want to blame it all on climate change, but you have to admit that the environment is changing in ways that no living person has ever seen before. I used to live in Nova Scotia and when I was young, I lived through a couple bad hurricanes. Since I left many years ago, there have been way too many to count on both hands. Usually, people not used to extreme weather conditions see devastation through the media around the world. When you experience it first hand, it is something entirely different.
In 2005 in Calgary, Alberta, there was a major flood due to several days of continuous rain. I lived in one of those low-lying areas. The city constructed a berm of ground across the street just south of where I lived to keep the water from the Elbow River from flooding the neighborhood. It worked. In other areas, it didn’t work. I remember having to travel in long and obtuse directions to just around the flooding. I thought it was bad back then, but the latest flood to hit the city eight years later is much, much worse.
I remember having a conversation with someone in 2005 during the flood and saying that Downtown Calgary was built on a flood plain and some day, it was going to get flooded. That day has happened. May and June are typically the months when Calgary gets the most rainfall. That, combined with the snow melt in the mountains causes rivers to rise, but not to overflow their banks. Unfortunately, when weather systems stall and continuously rotate against the foothills, that (combined with snow melt) cause the flood disasters of 2005 and 2013. That continuous rain we had in 2005 wasn’t torrential, but it was steady. In 2013, the rain was relentless, not only falling on Calgary, but in the already saturated watershed west of the city. With the low pressure system not moving, the rivers swelled and disaster struck.
At first I thought it was going to be a repeat of 2005, but as the hours went by, I realised it was much, much worse. To live in a city that has declared a state of emergency is unnerving. You are constantly on edge. It’s not until you see the pictures of the Bow and Elbow Rivers rushing into neighborhoods that you have travelled through or lived in that you get a true sense of the magnitude of the flood. There was river water in places that I never thought would ever see any water. It is mind boggling to see the city that you live in come to a complete stop – pictures of downtown with skyscrapers and streets of muddy brown water and nothing else. Communities that live next to the rivers completely submerged. Unbelievable.
I no longer live in the area that flooded in 2005. I have moved to high ground. Although the river is only a short distance away in the river valley, it still affects me because I have to travel over a couple bridges to get in and out of the community – bridges that were shut down temporarily because the river flooded them. Probably because I lived so close to the flood in 2005, I went for a closer look. It was a damp, musty, dirty, heavy wet feeling in the air. In 2013, I had no desire to see the flooding up close. On TV and the internet, the pictures satisfied my curiosity. It was all too unbelievable and surreal to see anyway.
I get a real good sense that the City was much more prepared this time, even though the situation was much worse. Our mayor and the people who work with him as aldermen really have done an amazing job. The city was right on top of things from the beginning. Although you can’t stop the force of nature, it was kind of a relief to see the city take control and secure the city. It’s probably too early to tell if this was really the ‘flood of the century’. It certainly feels like it because Calgary has never experienced something like this ever, and by the next flood of the century, I hope I am safely back home in Nova Scotia – in a hurricane. Not.
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