Alberta flood recovery could take 10 years, says premier

Evacuation orders for most homes across Calgary have been lifted, while Alberta Premier Alison Redford has warned the provincial cleanup effort could take up to 10 years.

Most Calgary homes cleared for families to return

Alberta's flood recovery determination

9 years ago
Duration 9:30
Alberta is determined to recover from flooding disaster and officials say the Calgary Stampede will run as scheduled

Evacuation orders for most homes across Calgary have been lifted, while Alberta Premier Alison Redford has warned the provincial cleanup effort could take up to 10 years.

"I promise you that, on behalf of the government of Alberta, we will do everything that it takes for people to rebuild their homes and rebuild their lives and rebuild their communities," the premier said.

Redford, who addressed media Monday, said the flooding would have a huge effect on the provincial budget.

The premier announced that the province had approved a $1-billion preliminary emergency fund to deal with the funding. Part of that will be for "cash cards" for residents who have not been able to return home yet. That funding will start to be handed out in the next week or two, she said.

"We talk about responding, we talk about renewal and we talk about rebuilding."

Redford said the province is now in the renewal phase.

She also stressed that people should be wary of misinformation. "Please go to the government websites to make sure that the information you have is actually true," said Redford.

The return home

Evacuation orders across Calgary continued to lift Monday.

"I am happy to announce today, right now, that every single family home outside of the downtown is open for families to return home," said Nenshi.

'We are still in a local state of emergency.'— Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi

Nenshi said just before noon MT that the Bow and Elbow river levels were at a third of what they were when they crested.

"It is still very dangerous out there, we are still in a local state of emergency," he said.

"You must stay off the river bank and you must stay off the river pathways, even if they look safe. We don’t know what has happened in terms of erosion."

As people return home, Nenshi stressed that residents should visit re-entry stations in their neighbourhoods.

"Remember again that electricity and water don’t mix, you have to be incredibly careful," said Nenshi.

[IMAGEGALLERY galleryid=4499 size=small]

In terms of power outages, Nenshi said Enmax is working hard to restore electricity. Many neighbourhoods are back on the grid, but it's a slow process, he warned.

"It’s not just flipping a switch to turn the power on," said Nenshi.

"So be patient, I know it’s really tough. I know it’s really, really frustrating."

Volunteer effort

About 2,500 people showed up at McMahon Stadium on Monday to volunteer to help residents settle back into their homes.

Those people will help knock on the doors of houses that had been evacuated and provide residents with information on flood recovery and other community resources.

"This is Calgary, folks. This is the spirit of this community."

Nenshi said the city will have more formal volunteering opportunities available soon.

"But, and I’ll probably get in trouble from the legal department for saying this, just go help your neighbour," said Nenshi.

Army presence to decline

"We are anticipating that we will begin to see a drop down in the number of Canadian troops that are deployed right now," said Calgary Southeast MP Jason Kenney.

The troops that are left will likely be assigned to help out with power and water problems, as opposed to search and rescue, said the minister.

The Bank of Montreal issued a statement late Monday morning estimating that the total losses from the Calgary floods will be in the $3-billion to $5-billion range.

Kenney said there is no way to tell just how much damage the flooding has cost at this point.

Outdoor water restrictions

Tap water remains safe for consumption, and the outdoor water use ban is still in place, Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said Monday.

Daniel Boddy, 9, helps with the cleanup work as hose lines from pumps drain water from a flooded basement in the Bridgeland neighbourhood in Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Across the city, people were starting to assess the damage at their homes and begin the long process of cleaning up.

People beginning to re-enter their homes should check for water outside and around the home. If it looks as if any electrical outlets are underwater, or have been touched by water, or if there is a smell of gas, people should immediately exit the building.

If there is any seepage or sewage, residents should call their insurance company to discuss how to remove the matter.

Food that has been spoiled should be thrown out, including food that was touched by floodwater.

For those starting to remove water from their homes, Burrell said it is acceptable to pump floodwater into the streets, as long as it’s not suspected of being contaminated.

Stories of recovery

Wade Felesky lives in the Elbow Park neighbourhood in southwest Calgary. Not only did he have to contend with extensive flooding of his house, he told CBC that he wielded an axe to chase away some would-be looters in the early hours of Monday morning.

"They became aggressive and we became more aggressive and they ran away" said Felesky.

Other Calgarians praised their fellow citizens for coming to their aid in a time of need. 

James Maxim, a resident of the Roxboro neighbourhood, said about dozen people, some of them strangers, helped him take the remaining water out of his basement. 

Downtown remains closed

Residents have been warned there is still a long way to go before the city and its downtown will be back to normal.

Power was restored in much of downtown Calgary Monday afternoon and transit officials are hopeful some C-Train service could be restored by Wednesday.

A section of downtown was reopened to the public west of Second Street S.W. to the Bow River, as well as north of Riverfront Avenue between Second Street S.W. and Centre Street.

Old City Hall will be closed for at least six weeks because of extensive damage and an electrical issue. New City Hall will be closed for the next seven days, and employees have been asked to work off-site.

The Calgary Stampede will go ahead as scheduled, said officials Monday morning.

Schools closed

In Calgary, all public and Catholic schools in the city will remain closed until Thursday. At that point they will re-open until noon.

Grade 9 provincial achievement tests are cancelled and students will receive a mark awarded by their teacher.

All universities and colleges in Calgary will also be closed Monday.

Schools in the entire Foothills School Division are closed for the rest of the school year.

Royal best wishes

Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, issued a note to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday, in which the couple expressed their best wishes for the people of Alberta.

"Catherine and I have been saddened to learn of the deaths and destruction caused by the unprecedented flooding throughout the province of Alberta," the letter reads.

"Please pass on our best wishes to the lieutenant-governor and premier of Alberta and to the brave emergency services and all those volunteering to help their neighbours during this ongoing period of intense efforts. Please be assured of our continued thoughts and prayers for all those caught up in the flooding."