BLOG | A father's High River flood chronicle

Blogger Angela Piovesana walks through how Keith Pelley and his family fared in the flood.

Blogger Angela Piovesana walks through how Keith Pelley and his family fared in the flood

The community of Sunrise was one of the worst hit in High River, Alta. Even after much of the cleanup has been done, some in the community are still not allowed to inhabit their homes. (Jordan Verlage/Canadian Press)

High River residents Angela Piovesana and Amanda Pawlitzki will be blogging over the summer about their experiences during and after the floods that hit southern Alberta.

They'll tell stories of the recovery through the eyes of people who live there.

Keith Pelley told me in early June that he sat with his wife and happily watched their children play in their backyard, grateful for their marriage, their children and their beautiful home.

Life was good, says Pelley, but it didn't stay that way after floodwaters brought devastation to the entire community of High River on June 20. Here is his story.

June 8: Pelley came home from a round of golf to a Harley-Davidson parked in his High River, Alta. garage — a surprise from his wife Denise. The father of a three-and-a-half-year-old girl and an 18-month-old boy, he had put that dream to bed.

June 15: Pelley offered to run the household errands. His Father’s Day gift had been insured the day before and he couldn’t wait to take it for a ride. He put 300 kilometres on his bike that weekend.

June 20: Pelley listened to the radio all morning. By noon, he and his two co-workers headed back into town. Sunrise, the community he lived in, was furthest from the river, but he feared for the homes of his co-workers.

By the time they reached town, streets were blocked off. By 5 p.m. MT, the evacuation order was being enforced for the entire town. His co-workers, who had left to purchase a change of clothes, were not allowed back in to meet up at Pelley’s as planned. By 7 p.m., town officials knocked on the family’s door. Obeying the order to evacuate the house immediately, the family packed their overnight bags and left.

July 11: They were allowed access to their home. Pelley used hip waders, gaining access through the back. His home, a four-level split, was flooded on two levels, water still standing on the second floor.

July 12: He began work on the garage, waiting to start on his basement until water could be pumped out. His new bike was now a casualty of the flood.

July 13: He started on the house. The bottom two floors had to be gutted, taken down to the studs and pressure washed for the drying out process to begin. 

July 19: Alberta Health Services began going door-to-door posting notices that their homes were "uninhabitable." Pelley asked the official to come in and have a look. The official picked up a tiny piece of concrete from the floor and said, "See, we just don’t know what is happening here."

Aug. 2: Pelley and his family are living in a house in Okotoks, Alta., that was generously offered to them by a friend. Their home has been sprayed for mold and has dried out completely. A new furnace and hot water tank are on the way — it’s a race against time before a cold night could cause pipes to freeze and burst. The family has registered with Tervita as instructed, but have yet to hear anything.

Aug. 3: The residents of Sunrise will gather for a meeting. A lawyer will be present to answer the one question that is on the mind of the community: What rights does a homeowner have to gain access and make decisions for the cleanup and restoration of their own homes?

Now, says Pelley, everytime he and his wife talk their three-year-old stops them, "Are you guys going to cry again?"

When I ask if they'll replace the bike, Pelley laughs.

"I think I have bigger priorities for that money right now."