Friday, July 5, 2013

Calgary - The Best Home Town I Know

Two weeks ago the rain came. And the rivers rose. And my home town, and many small communities around it, suffered the worst flooding in Alberta's history. On June 20, 2013 Calgary declared a State of Emergency. Yesterday, it was finally lifted. Southern Alberta has a long, long road of recovery ahead. 

I hummed and hawed over writing about everything that happened. How could I possibly capture the devastation and destruction that was suffered?  How do I tell the story, so much better told by others?  I don't. All I can do is share my empathy, my heart ache, and my pride. The pride in being an Albertan, a Canadian, and a home grown Calgary girl.  

Born and raised in Calgary, until I met my husband and moved just outside the city to Strathmore, I never ever thought I would leave. I loved Calgary. And I never knew that my love for the city could grow as it has.  I still commute to Calgary for work everyday, it will always be home.

Some pictures of the flooding:

A walking bridge over the Elbow River.
(photo courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Where the Bow and Elbow Rivers meet.
(photo courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

An arial shot of flooded homes.
(photo shared on Twitter, original source unknown)

Businesses having to start over (Wurst Resaurant).
(photo courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Calgary's beloved Stampede grounds under water.
(photo courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

A dark deserted downtown Calgary, all power cut off and all business / homes evacuated.
(photo shared on Twitter, original source unknown)

Within 24 hours of the flooding, 26 communities in Calgary had been evacuated. They estimated 110,000 people.  Faster than imaginable, emergency evacuation centres were up and running. Twitter and Facebook were full of stories of people offering homes, offering food, offering shelter. First responders worked hours on end to ensure Calgarians were safe. 

The City of Calgary provides this infographic with shocking stats of the flood, fallout, response and recovery.

Kind Calgarians started groups like YYC Helps, it's been one of the many hubs for volunteers and those needing help connected.  When the sun came out, volunteers started hitting the streets in droves to start the clean up. Again, Twitter and Facebook were lit up. The city called for 600 volunteers to meet at McMahon Stadium to help with clean up. 6000 appeared. The spirit of Calgarians was immeasurable. Nothing would hold anyone back from helping one another. Nothing did.

At the helm?  The Mayor, Naheed Nenshi.  Cool, calm and collected, he connected with citizens. Reported daily the ongoings of flood emergency plans, coined his own meme's and gave everyone hope to keep going. Leanne Shirtliffe tells his story best here

The clean up begins.
(photo courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

(photo courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

(photo courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

The Calgary Stampede vowed Come Hell or High Water, the floods would not stop them. Today the parade kicks off 10 days of an event the city needs more than ever. 

Two weeks later? Calgary is open for business.

While Calgary gets back on it's feet, there are many communities like High River and Siksika Nation that are only just starting recover. 
For an amazing view of Southern Alberta's Flood story, visit the Neil Zeller Photography website or Facebook page.  Chilling photos of what the human spirit can endure and over come. 
(photo courtesy Neil Zeller Photography)

Calgary, you're still the best home town I know.

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