'Like nothing we've ever seen before,' says Premier on floods

As floodwaters recede in Calgary, some residents are returning home to muddy, waterlogged homes to assess the damage.

Roughly 65,000 Calgarians allowed to head home starting at 1 p.m. MT

Calgary mayor speaks

10 years ago
Duration 30:30
Naheed Nenshi announces 65,000 flood evacuees can now return home

As floodwaters recede in Calgary, most of the downtown core has been opened for assessment by building owners.

City officials announced Sunday afternoon that the area north of 17th Avenue south will be open to building owners only. It is not open to the public at this time.

The announcement followed news earlier in the afternoon that the city was lifting the mandatory evacuation orders for 65,000 Calgarians.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said there are still a few "red zones" which are still off limits in Roxboro, Inglewood, Bowness, Bridgeland, Chinatown, East Village, Elbow Park, Rideau, Erlton, Mission, Stampede Park, Elboya, Sunnyside and parts of downtown.

Nenshi says residents should check in at re-entry centres at the community hall in their neighbourhoods to get a safety checklist.

"We ask that residents of single family homes self-assess the condition of their property and follow the safety precautions provided," said the city in a release. 

"Residents of multi-family dwellings are to connect with their property manager prior to returning home. We will continue to update those affected by the evacuation order throughout the day."   

Nenshi says if there is floodwater when opening the door to a home, then residents are asked to leave immediately. He said residents should check their basement for water, but if water levels are above the electrical outlet they should leave immediately.

"Water and electricity don't mix," he said.

The city is asking residents that have problems with natural gas, electricity or water pumping to write down the issue in bold on a sheet of paper and place it in their window for city crews.

They're also cautioning people operating generators or pumps to make sure it is exhausting well away from homes.

Exhaust fumes contain carbon monixide, a toxic gas.

City officials say residents should stay away from the banks of the surging rivers as they are not safe.

On the Bow River, water is flowing at about 1220 cubic metres per second.

On the Elbow, downstream of the Glenmore Dam, water is flowing at about 225 cubic metres per second.

In Bearspaw, below the confluence, the flow is about roughly 1365 cubic metres per second.

Sarah MacBey pauses for a moment as she walks through her flooded home for the first time since the waters receded in Calgary's south end Saturday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

"Like nothing we've ever seen before"

In a press conference on Sunday, Alberta's premier addressed concerns about the costs associated with recovering from the floods.

"This is like nothing we've ever seen before in Alberta and it's going to require monumental marshalling of resources, skills and people," said Alison Redford. "The complexities of the recovery and the rebuilding will be immense."

The premier also touched on reports of alleged price gauging in flood-ravaged areas.

"There are penalties under legislation and we will prosecute anyone who takes advantage of flood victims for personal gain," Redford said.

Since the flooding hit, there has been speculation over the monetary cost of recovery efforts.

While the premier would not speculate on a dollar value, she did say Alberta will get the job done regardless of cost.

"We continue to have a lot of resources in this province," she said. "That's the job of the government, to make sure we're meeting the immediate needs of Albertans."

Federal government help

Jason Kenney, the Conservative MP for Calgary Southeast, said all three levels of government will be working together for the emergency response and long-term recovery effort.

"We will obviously be there in a big way, as the prime minister indicated when he was here on Friday. I can't guess what the dollar figure will be. It will clearly be substantial," he said.

Kenney said he is not just concerned about the immediate infrastructure and recovery costs, but also the bigger economic costs.

"We have the Canadian Pacific Railway that is out now for the fourth straight day. That's going to be a huge hit economically. we have the Trans-Canada Highway out," he said. 

"We're going to have the core of the Canadian energy industry at least in suspended animation for a certain period of time. So there are going to be some broader economic ramifications from this flood."

Kenney also said Conservatives are hoping to reschedule their national policy convention for the fall at the earliest, but in Calgary as a testament to the strength of the city.

"We want to send a message that Calgary is back," he said.

Army in Douglasdale

The city says residents in Douglasdale should be aware that Canadian Forces heavy equipment will be moving through their community throughout today.

Officials say the army has helped to shore up the east bank of the Bow River to help maintain the stability of an Enmax substation, which provides power for south Calgary.

Enmax has restored power to Deer Run, Douglasdale, Quarry Park, Queensland and Riverbend. There are still 23 communities, some not under evacuation orders, which are listed on the Enmax website as not having power as of Sunday afternoon.

The city says power is slowly being restored to the eerily quiet downtown, but a portion serviced by Substation 5 may not have power for weeks. The best case scenario is days, but officials say the worst case is months.

Officials are reminding residents there is no boil water advisory in Calgary, and the water quality is good. But the city is asking Calgarians to limit the use of water, and officials have banned the use of water outdoors. 

Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said he got a call last night from Calgary's police chief who said the "arrest processing unit was no longer viable" because of the flooding.

Twelve inmates had to be transported to the Calgary Remand Centre, but that arrangement won't be ideal once the work week begins, so the inmates will be moved again to Calgary Courts Centre holding cells.

Schools closed Monday

All public and Catholic schools in Calgary are closed Monday because of the flooding.

The Calgary Board of Education has cancelled Grade 12 diploma exams, but will make arrangements for those students who still want to write the exams.

Grade 9 Provincial Achievement Tests are cancelled and students will receive a mark awarded by their teacher.

Given the continued state of emergency in Calgary, the University of Calgary's four campuses will also remain closed Monday and Tuesday. 

Most campus buildings remain locked, and all classes and events have been cancelled or will be postponed.

Classes held on the Bow Valley College campus and online are cancelled until further notice.

As well, classes at Mount Royal University are cancelled and exams on June 24 and 25 have been postponed.