Alberta town deluged by flood praised by GG David Johnston

Gov. Gen. David Johnston had a first-hand look at the lingering impact of Alberta's June floods as he walked the streets of one of the hardest-hit communities.

Canada's Governor General remarks on the spirit of High River during Alberta flood tour

Governor General David Johnston, right, talks with Mayor Emile Blokland as he tours flood-damaged High River Tuesday. Johnston also presented the Governor General's Commendation for Outstanding Service to the citizens of High River. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Gov. Gen. David Johnston had a first-hand look at the lingering impact of Alberta's June floods as he walked the streets of one of the hardest-hit communities.

The Queen's representative met with emergency workers in High River before checking out the town's new water treatment plant and finishing off with a stroll through the downtown, its recovery still largely a work in progress.

About 60 per cent of High River was under water when the Highwood River rushed over its banks June 20, turning downtown streets into rivers and many neighbourhoods into lakes.

There is still debris piled up in parts of the community of 13,000 south of Calgary. Most businesses have been gutted and are in the process of being rebuilt.

At the Wales Theatre, built in 1927, the marquee still displays Hangover 3 the way it did on June 19.

Governor General David Johnston, left, talks with barbershop owner Deanna Green as he tours the flood-damaged streets of High River. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The Pioneer Barber Shoppe, had its front door padlocked, with a sign saying "We will be back."

Johnston stopped and spoke to owner Deanna Green, who said she didn't know when she will be cutting hair in the building again. The Governor General promised to come back for a trim.

"Can you take a little off there?" he said pointing above his ears.

Green was touched that Johnston took the time to visit.

"It means a lot. It's humbling the amount of help we've had," she said. "It's staggering. It makes me cry when people come and help us and give us support — even from people who say, 'You're going to be OK, you're gonna get back. We know you can do it."'

The Governor General praised the people of High River for their community spirit before presenting the town with his commendation for outstanding service.

"What is quite remarkable, of course, is how everyone rallied around to deal with the immediate emergencies, looking after people, so fatalities were avoided and people were not hurt or hurt unduly," he said.

High River Mayor Emile Blokland accepted the award on behalf of the town residents.

"Not many of us can remember anything that happened on June 19 but I'm pretty sure all of us can remember almost to the minute what went on the next day, June 20, all day long," said Blokland.

Later Tuesday, Johnston bestowed a similar honour on the City of Calgary with a presentation to Mayor Naheed Nenshi. He spoke of the tenacity and versatility of Calgarians during and after the flooding.

"That is the reach and impact you've had on each other and on this country. So often we forget that Canadians have such compassion as a nation. We help others because it must be done and because it is the right thing to do," Johnston said.

He went to the flood-damaged Siksika First Nation on Monday to hand out a commendation there.