Slave Lake begins flood cleanup

They've already endured a raging wildfire and are now faced with a flood, but residents of Slave Lake, Alta., are staying positive.

Creek level dropping in Alberta town that faced fire, then flooding

A view inside the town of Slave Lake on July 8 after it was hit by heavy rain. (YouTube)

They've already endured a raging wildfire and are now faced with a flood, but residents of Slave Lake, Alta., are staying positive.

The fire that scorched a third of the town in May was harder to deal with because there was little that volunteers could do, fire Chief Jamie Coutts said Saturday. Close to 400 homes and businesses were destroyed in the May blaze.

But it was a different situation this weekend as volunteers battling floodwaters gathered to reinforce a dike on the Sawridge Creek, Coutts said.

"Unlike the fire where it's dangerous and we had a hard time finding jobs for everybody, this one, it's filling sandbags," Coutts said.

"They took turns, they told jokes and told stories. So although you're trying to make sure another terrible thing doesn't happen, I think the mood was a little better because people were able to help out."

The dike had been damaged during a surge in the creek a week before, Coutts said.

Normally, the town would have a year to fix the damage, but then it started raining heavily in northwestern Alberta on Thursday and it kept on pouring through Friday.

Dozens of residents woke up Friday morning to find streets underwater and basements flooded.

Town crews worked overnight Friday to pump water out of flood-affected areas in the community, Coutts said, adding that it hadn't rained since.

Residents displaced

Saturday brought some good news for the town's residents. According to the Alberta government, the water level on the Sawridge Creek is dropping, although a high streamflow advisory for the creek is still in effect.

"The water's gone down a couple of metres from where it was yesterday," Coutts said on Saturday of the Sawridge Creek. "It's looking good today as long as it doesn't rain."

The Red Cross was assisting about five dozen residents whose homes had flooded. On Friday, the agency helped them find hotel rooms or get groceries, hygiene kits and cleanup supplies.

Leila Daoud, a Canadian Red Cross spokeswoman, said only one additional person sought assistance from the agency on Saturday.

Most of the people who've been forced from their homes because of flooding are being put up in hotels or are staying with friends or relatives, she said.

Roads closures

Saturday's dry weather has led to the reopening of some highways that had been closed due to high water, said RCMP Const. Stuart Kirkpatrick.

Highway 2 east of Slave Lake, which connects the town with Edmonton, was operational Saturday.

But Kirkpatrick said the same highway west of Slave Lake, between Highway 33 and Kinuso, was closed, along with Highway 33 between Swan Hills and Fort Assiniboine due to flooding. Highway 88 that goes north from the town has a sinkhole and remains shut.

While the rain has stopped for the time being and water levels are dropping, Coutts said, more rain is in the forecast for the Slave Lake and Grande Prairie region for Sunday.

Environment Canada removed the rainfall warning for the region on Saturday, but residents in the adjacent Peace River region of British Columbia were issued a flood warning on Saturday.

Slave Lake received international attention earlier this week when Prince William and his wife Kate visited the community on short-notice Wednesday. They took in the fire zone and met with area residents, hoping to boost morale.