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Friday, June 21, 2013

ALBERTA FLOODS FORCE EVACUATION OF THOUSANDS...AND THAT'S JUST THE START



CALGARY -- Southern Albertans awoke Thursday to a tsunami of rain-driven flooding that's forced thousands to evacuate and left untold numbers of buildings swamped.
Amid onrushing muddy torrents, survivors were plucked from rooftoops by helicopters and boat-borne rescuers.
Authorities say the worst is to come late Thursday and early Friday as rivers swollen by up to 200 mm of rain in some spots near Calgary rose to levels higher than those recorded in 2005's disastrous floods.
From the Crowsnest Pass in the South to Canmore to the north, chaos reigned and states of emergency were declared in a dozen communities.
In the Turner Valley-Black Diamond area, a man was rescued from his vehicle by helicopter.
Pieces of buildings in Bragg Creek were seen floating in the partially-submerged hamlet down an Elbow River that rapidly leapt its banks -- and much of the town of High River was evacuated as the flood-prone Highwood River once again massively overflowed.


A sour gas leak was reported in Turner Valley, prompting officials to issue a warning for residents not already evacuated to stay inside. The leak was capped by late Thursday afternoon.
By late Thursday, soldiers were being sent to High River from CFB Suffield, along with three helicopters.
Just after 10 a.m., City of Calgary officials declared an emergency and later mandatory evacuations of thousands from homes in at least nine neighbourhoods along the Elbow River, which was expected to expand throughout Thursday night.
It's estimated as many as 100,000 people could be affected.
Emergency responders went door-to-door to ensure Calgarians obeyed the orders. By midday they were asking people to oversee their own evacuations and mark an "X" on their their front doors to show emergency crews their homes were emtpy.
City officials pleaded with Calgarians who work in the core to avoid going to work on Friday.
Emergency co-ordinator Bruce Burrell said the flooding situation for Calgary was shaping up to be worse than the one experienced in 2005 that led to more than $400 million in damage claims.
"It will be in the magnitude of the 2005 flooding or greater," said Burrell.
He said while the city is better prepared since the 2005 flood, the current deluge will likely overwhelm city resources due to a low-pressure weather system that's stubbornly soaking areas west of Calgary.
"The weather system is hovering there, dumping rain ... there's a lot of water coming out of the mountains heading toward the City of Calgary," Burrell said.



The Trans-Canada Hwy. at Canmore was closed due to an overflowing Cougar Creek that sent residents along its banks scurrying for safety.
Mudslides briefly shut down the highway farther west, near the Banff townsite, threatening to cut off the mountain towns, RCMP Sgt. Patricia Neely said.
Members of the Redwood Meadows Fire Dept. said they were using boats to rescue residents in Bragg Creek -- a scene repeated throughout southern Alberta.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Premier Alison Redford, in Toronto and New York respectively, were cutting short their business trips and returning to Alberta.
Near Dead Man's Flats, east of Canmore, Melanie Atkinson said she was ambushed by fast-rising waters from the Bow River that abruptly swamped a work quarry along with a mobile home court and several vehicles.
"Cars are floating away, roads are disappearing, I can't even see our trailer now," said Atkinson, who was rescued with the help of neighbours and heavy equipment.
"There was a tonne of water and a lot of flooding and I didn't know what I was going to do -- I got out by an excavator."

Downtown High River (PHOTO CREDIT SUN NEWS NETWORK)
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