Alberta Flooding Spreads as Water Subsides in Calgary

By Edward Welsch and Gerrit De Vynck | June 25, 2013

Water levels in Calgary subsided and crews are working to restore power as officials confirmed a fourth fatality in the worst flood in Alberta’s history.

Insured losses to the province are forecast to be C$2.25 billion ($2.15 billion) to C$3.75 billion, Tom MacKinnon, a Bank of Montreal analyst, said today in a note. About 75,000 of Calgary’s 1.1 million residents were ordered to leave on June 20 after a foot (30 centimeters) of rain fell in two days.

As the city recovers, other communities are still bracing and evacuation orders are in effect in towns north and east of Calgary, with a flood-warning zone stretching some 250 miles (402 kilometers) north from the Montana border. About 10,000 people evacuated Medicine Hat, and officials said today they are concerned that protective berms may “fail suddenly” after the South Saskatchewan River peaked last night.

“Structural integrity of our berms is at issue and we require vigilant monitoring,” Ron Robinson, Medicine Hat’s director of emergency services, said in a press conference.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford announced C$1 billion for flood relief and said plans to balance the provincial budget next year would be delayed.

“The world changed on Thursday morning,” she said at a press conference broadcast by the CBC. “This is like nothing we’ve ever faced before, and we’re going to respond to that.”

Fourth Fatality

Calgary police confirmed a fourth fatality Sunday night. An 83-year-old woman was found dead in her home, in an area that was under mandatory evacuation order, according to deputy police chief Trevor Daroux. The cause of death is unknown.

The first of five downtown zones will have power again tomorrow and the rest of Calgary’s buildings should be back by midweek, according to the city’s news website.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. said today its main line west of Calgary was reopened.

Suncor Energy Inc., Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and Imperial Oil Ltd. were among several Calgary-based energy companies that were forced to shut their headquarters on June 21 because of the floods. Alberta has the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world, after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, according to the provincial government.

Enbridge Leak

Enbridge Inc., the largest transporter of Canadian crude to the U.S., yesterday shut three oil pipelines in the province after a leak on a conduit possibly caused by the flooding. The lines carry crude from Alberta oil-sands projects.

CF Industries Holdings Inc. said yesterday it shut a nitrogen facility in Medicine Hat in advance of flooding on the South Saskatchewan River.

The town of High River, about 30 miles south of Calgary, suffered the worst damage, as rain fell in a river basin west of the city before emptying into the Highwood River that flows through town. Three people died there during the flooding, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

“There is no spot where the situation is worse than in High River,” Doug Griffiths, the province’s municipal affairs minister, told reporters in Calgary yesterday. “There’s not a single home in High River that will not have to be inspected, that has not been touched.”

River Flows

Some of the 75,000 who were told to leave Calgary were able to return home yesterday afternoon as water levels in the city’s Bow and Elbow rivers receded. Power was restored this morning to Banff and Lake Louise, Rocky Mountain resort towns west of Calgary, TransAlta Corp. said today.

Flow rates on the rivers still remain high, Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, told reporters yesterday. They’re more than three times faster than during a 2005 flood that was the worst in about a century, damaging 40,000 homes and evacuating 1,500 people.

Six to eight inches of rain fell into the river basins near Calgary beginning June 19, and more than 12 inches fell in the Sheep River basin southwest of the city.

“I never imagined you could have a flood of this magnitude in this part of the country,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said at a June 21 news conference after touring flood-damaged parts of the province with Premier Redford. Harper is a member of Parliament representing Calgary’s southwest district.

Harper’s Conservative Party announced yesterday that it will postpone its national convention in Calgary, originally scheduled for this week.

Organizers of the Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo festival scheduled to start July 5, said the event will go on, at a press conference broadcast by the CBC.

“Visitors will see the resiliency of Calgarians first hand,” said Vern Kimball, the Stampede’s chief executive officer. The event brings in C$345 million for local businesses each year, according to the its website.

(With assistance from Cecile Gutscher in London, Jeremy van Loon in Calgary and Lynn Doan in San Francisco. Editors: Will Wade, Tina Davis)

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