Boil water advisory lifted in most parts of High River, Alta.
Flood-ravaged community slowly recovering
The boil water advisory for many High River residents has been lifted after floodwaters devastated the southern Alberta community last month.
The only exception is for areas in Hampton Hills Estates and the area east of 20th Street known as Sunrise.
"Safe drinking water access has been restored for much of High River due to the extraordinary efforts of staff of the Town of High River, Alberta Health [Services] and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, who have been working together to resolve this issue as quickly as possible," said the province in a release.
Residents in the two remaining affected areas who are unsure if the boil water advisory still applies to them can access a color-coded street map at www.highriver.ca or call the Town of High River at 403-652-2110 for information.
Those still under the advisory should bring water to a boil for at least one minute prior to drinking, using for infant formula, brushing your teeth or washing food.
Water used for bathing and laundry does not need to be boiled.
Future of flood-damaged schools unknown
Several schools in High River were badly damaged during the flood and some may not be able to open in the fall.
The school year ended abruptly when the flood struck the town June 20, and there was no graduation for the students or a chance to say goodbye to friends for the summer.
Grade 5 student Grace Sutherland was part of the stream of students allowed back at Joe Clark School recently to collect her belongings.
"I picked up everything from my desk, my report card and my shoes," she said.
Grace's mom Jane isn't sure which school her child will be able to attend.
"I was a little worried about that and what was going to be happening," she said. "I actually thought about home schooling."
To alleviate concerns, the Alberta government is ordering 75 portable classrooms. Education Minister Jeff Johnson says they will be used throughout southern Alberta.
"We want to make sure those resources are available and at our fingertips," he said.
Two Catholic schools in High River likely won't accept students in September.
The Holy Spirit Academy may never open again, as it still sits in a lake of water, but school officials hope it can be restored. Notre Dame Collegiate will be restored and ready for occupancy in January.
The plan is to place Holy Spirit Academy students in portable classrooms until the school is repaired or another solution is determined. Students from Notre Dame Collegiate will be in a self-contained wing of Senator Riley School in High River for roughly five months until the school restoration is complete.
Residents allowed to see homes
More High River residents were given access to their flood-damaged homes for the first time Tuesday.
Special operations teams have also now assessed the structural integrity of homes in both the Hamptons and Wallaceville areas.
People were individually escorted into the communities so they could at least have a look at the outside of their houses — but many of them are not safe enough to go inside.
There was also 42 units in the Willows development opened up so people could start cleaning up. There is still no service to the buildings.
State of emergency may be extended
The provincial state of emergency in High River is set to expire on Friday, but Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths said he is talking with the mayor in High River about whether it should be extended but no decision has yet been made.
Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith is asking the province to extend the state of emergency in High River. She sent a letter asking the government to recall the legislature to get the task done if need be.
Liberal Party Leader Raj Sherman agreed, saying he witnessed the devastation in the community last week.
"With these memories fresh in my mind, I join with Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith in asking Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths to consult with all members of High River Town council in order to confirm that they are in agreement with the provincial state of emergency coming to an end on Friday," he said.
"If High River Town Council does not want an end to the state of emergency, then an emergency sitting of the legislature will be required to extend it. In such a case, the Alberta [Liberals] ... will work with government to expeditiously pass a resolution to extend the provincial state of emergency."
Urgent care open
Urgent care services at the High River Hospital emergency department reopened Wednesday morning for non-life threatening emergencies.
The hospital was closed when flooding hit the area because there was no road accessibility, the power was out and there was no sewer system available.
Services will be supplied by local staff and community physicians displaced from the Charles Clark Medical Centre and the Highwood Health Centre.
"I thank the people of High River for their patience while the facility was being cleaned and repaired," said Health Minister Fred Horne in a release.
"I also thank our health-care staff for their incredible efforts during difficult and challenging circumstances."
Most of the medical staff deployed to the Okotoks Health and Wellness Centre will also return to High River; however, the low-risk obstetrics clinic will continue to operate out of Okotoks.
Disaster recovery program still available
Disaster recovery application information:
- Government-issued photo ID
- A list of damaged property with estimated measurements of square footage of their home.
- If available, a letter from their insurance company confirming losses are uninsurable, a property tax assessment and photos and lists of damaged property.
- Homeowners can also bring their 2013 property tax assessment to help speed up the process.
Residents looking for provincial disaster relief can still apply the Welcome Center located at the High River Ag Society Rodeo Grounds and the Foothills Youth Foundation in High River until July 16.
The Okotoks Food Bank may also be accessed by residents of the Municipal District of Foothills.
The town is still looking for volunteers to help with the cleanup, but the province is asking people to report to the Welcome Centre at the rodeo grounds for a safety orientation.
The province says the Welcome Centre will continue to support returning residents as a "one-stop shop" to provide information and resources, including social services such as post-traumatic stress counselling and administrative support, such as personal documentation.
The centre is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. MT daily.