Calgary

Calgary emergency crews pushed to the limit amid week of extreme heat, flooding

Emergency crews were pushed to the brink this week as the pressures of an extreme heat wave coincided with a Friday night thunderstorm that brought flooding to roads across Calgary.

'Code orange' standby was called on Friday as AHS saw high demand from heat-related calls

Hail damaged homes and vehicles and Calgary roads were flooded as a Friday thunderstorm rolled into the city, pushing emergency crews to their limit. (Sarah Rieger/CBC, Submitted by Bryn Welter)

Emergency crews were pushed to the brink this week as the pressures of an extreme heat wave coincided with a Friday night thunderstorm that brought flooding to roads across Calgary.

The Calgary Fire Department said it saw its call volume rise to almost 200 emergency responses as the storm rolled through the city.

By contrast, the average number of responses during the same period over the three prior days was 31.

At 7 p.m., fire crews attended more than 70 different incidents around Calgary at the same time, meaning that almost every fire truck and crew were on an emergency call at the same time.

Some of those incidents included:

  • Two reports of lightning striking homes, one of which resulted in an attic fire.
  • A portion of a strip mall in the northeast collapsing, which damaged a gas line.
  • Multiple motorists being stranded in their vehicles in high water.
  • Branches and trees being blown down and onto power lines, creating hazards.

On Friday evening, Calgary police said they had received multiple reports of flash flooding across the city and advised motorists to stay home if possible.

Mandy Weidinger was riding a Calgary Transit bus on Friday evening when water began pooling in the vehicle.

"I just didn't know what to do. I just put my feet up and just prayed that the bus would make it through the water," she said.

WATCH | A Calgary Transit bus was flooded during Friday evening's thunderstorm:

Calgary Transit bus flooded on Friday evening

28 days ago
0:26
Mandy Weidinger submitted a video she took on a Calgary Transit bus on Friday evening as pooling water filled the vehicle. 0:26

Weidinger said as soon the bus reached Memorial Drive S.W. it was clear of the flooded roads, and passengers began applauding the bus driver.

"Wild Friday night," she said.

Calgary resident Jean Claude Munyezamu was on the way home from a soccer game when the road he was driving on became "just like a river."

"It happened quick, very, very quick," Munyezamu said.

"It was a lot of water. It was scary. If the rain continued for maybe another hour, I don't know what would have happened."

Matt Melnyk captured this shot of Friday's severe thunderstorm east of Calgary near Indus, Alta. (Submitted by Matt Melnyk)

Calgary is no stranger to summer storms. A massive hailstorm hit Calgary in June 2020, causing at least $1.2 billion in insured damages.

As of 11 a.m. Saturday, Calgary is under a severe thunderstorm watch. Environment Canada said thunderstorms are expected to develop this afternoon along the foothills before moving eastward this evening. 

'Code orange' standby called

Western Canada's extreme heat wave led Alberta Health Services to call a "code orange" standby in Calgary on Friday. A code orange refers to a mass casualty incident.

"This allowed us to prepare additional resources, including ambulances, physicians, nurses and other clinicians in the event that the number of patients seeking medical help exceeded our resource capacity," said Jennifer Vanderlaan, a spokesperson for AHS, in an email.

The code orange standby was precipitated by extremely high demand in Calgary and Edmonton, due to factors such as:

  • An increase in heat-related calls.
  • Emergency calls related to people participating in activities outdoors. 
  • Drug and alcohol-related calls.

Since June 29, EMS responded to 125 heat-related calls in Edmonton and 73 heat-related calls in Calgary.

The code orange standby called on Friday was ended by late afternoon and code orange was not enacted.

Calgary is no longer under a heat warning as of 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Multiple communities remain under warning, including Okotoks, High River, Lethbridge and Red Deer.

For a full list of current heat warnings, click here.

Did you capture any photos or videos of last night's flooding? We want to see them. Send them to calgaryphotos@cbc.ca.

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