Residents return to Calgary's soggy Sunnyside neighbourhood

Homeowners return to Calgary's Sunnyside neighbourhood to find the power still off and entire blocks of houses cut off by huge pools of water.

Pumps and generators work overtime to save houses

Alex Jackson has spent more than 36 hours trying to pump floodwater from his properties in Calgary's Sunnyside neighbourhood. ''He’s the king of pumping,'' jokes a neighbour. (John Rieti/CBC)

In Calgary’s leafy Sunnyside neighbourhood huge pools of water still cut off entire blocks of houses, the power is still off in most homes and the groan of generators hangs in the air.

While an evacuation order is still officially in place for the area, which sits right on the banks of the overflowing Bow River, many residents are back at their homes and pumping out basements.

Like many of his neighbours, Alex Jackson waited until the last minute — around 9 p.m. — on Thursday before he left. He walked back on Friday at 2 a.m.

"It was scary," Jackson told CBC News. "Pitch black."

When he reached his property, "I didn’t know what we were going to see," he said.

Police guarding the neighbourhood let him quickly survey the flooding, which was already bad, and he left. Hours later he was back with pumping gear, and he’s been there since.

"He’s the king of pumping," Jackson’s neighbour jokes.

Jackson demurs, noting all of his pumping hasn’t accomplished much. In the basement of one of two houses he owns, the water is going down, but more keeps flowing out of the toilet.

Sadly, many residents said they figured their basements, if not homes, were ruined. "We’re fighting to save our house," said Jackson’s neighbour Sue.

Pumps and generators

On some streets in Sunnyside, houses on one side of the street are dry while the opposite side is swamped.

James Andruchow and Rachel Hnatowich weren’t among the lucky ones. They evacuated the area, but when they came back on Friday they watched with horror as the drain in the alley behind them blocked and their back yard flooded.

Sunnyside residents set up a snack table where neighbours donated food that would otherwise have gone bad. (John Rieti/CBC)

"We just watched it rise, then it turned into a stream going past our house," Andruchow said.

By Saturday evening their power was off and the water in the basement was waist high. The couple said they wanted to hire an oil services worker who has a six-inch water pump to clear the basement sooner, but couldn’t get permission from the city.

"I want this [water] out of here," said Andruchow. "The sooner the better."

For now, the pair joins the scores of neighbours doing their best to remove the water with generators and pumps hastily purchased from the hardware store. The smell of gas is everywhere.

But in the face of the disaster, Sunnyside residents are coming together. On one corner, residents set up a table with beer, watermelon and chips, while hot dogs grill on a barbeque.

There's no reason to let food go bad in powerless fridges, one resident said.