By Nia Williams
CALGARY, Alberta, June 22 Southern Alberta
braced for more disruption on Saturday from floods that killed
at least three people, forced about 100,000 from their homes and
blacked out the center of Canada's oil capital, Calgary.
Communities to the south and east of Calgary were on high
alert as flood waters moved across the region. But with rainfall
easing, a few residents began returning to damaged homes and
authorities were hopeful that the worst might be over.
"It's morning in Calgary! Sunny, water levels are down, and
our spirit remains strong," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said on
Twitter. "We're not out of this, but maybe have turned (the)
The floods followed some 36 hours of unusually heavy
rainfall - some communities received six months of their normal
rainfall in under two days.
Evacuations started on Thursday in Calgary and in smaller
cities. Utility Enmax switched off power to central Calgary on
Friday afternoon lest water damage its downtown facilities, and
the area was still without power and closed to cars on Saturday.
A few tourists and residents strolled in the carless streets
of the city's core, but the area was eerily quiet.
Officials were unable to say how much it would cost to
repair flooded homes and rebuild roads and bridges washed away
by the murky brown floodwater.
But the floods are already shaping up to be significantly
worse than those of 2005, which caused C$400 million ($383
million) in damage.
The bulk of the evacuations were in Calgary, a city of 1.1
million that is home to Canada's biggest energy companies.
The city ordered some 100,000 residents to leave their
homes, urged drivers to stay off the roads, and warned people
not to get too close to the still raging rivers.
"If you want to help your city, the best thing you can do is
stay home," Nenshi, visibly tired after two days of crisis
management, told a news conference.
Canada's main oil-producing region in the north of the
province, was not affected, although some farmland was flooded,
which will likely weaken crops that include wheat and canola.
Police said three bodies had been found near High River, a
town of 13,000 about 60 km (40 miles) south of Calgary. A fourth
person may still be missing.
"A lot of Albertans have faced disasters the likes of which
the majority of us could never imagine," Alberta Municipal
Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths told a news conference.
In Calgary, authorities said water levels were expected to
drop in the coming days. But the Bow River was still flowing at
around five times its normal rate.
Nenshi said downtown could be off limits until the middle of
next week "at the earliest," forcing companies to work from
A spokesman for Imperial Oil, Canada's
second-largest producer and refiner, said the company was
working on plans to maintain essential operations, including
allowing employees to work from other locations.
It was not clear when trading in Canadian crude oil would
resume after little if any occurred on Friday.
Shorcan Energy Brokers, which provides live prices for many
Canadian crude grades, operated out of Toronto on Friday rather
than from Calgary, although no trades in Western Canada Select
heavy blend or light synthetic crude took place.
Net Energy Inc, the other main Calgary crude broker, was
closed on Friday and no trading took place.
Many roads and bridges remained closed, and the city banned
the use of tap water for car-washing or other outside activities
because treatment plants take more time to process the sludgy
water. But Nenshi said Calgary water was still safe to drink.
And as flood waters receded, a few residents started
returning home to flooded basements and thick layers of silt on
streets and sidewalks.
"We had four feet (1.2 metres) of water," said Gordon Weir,
53, standing outside his home in the city's Elbow Park community
as a pump spewed water from his basement onto the street.
"It was all from ground water, so coming up from the sewers
and through the concrete. This is one of the higher houses on
the block. Our neighbors had seven or eight feet (2.1-2.4
Canada's ruling Conservative Party scrapped plans to hold
their annual party convention in Calgary next weekend.
"There are neighborhoods under water, so there is a lot of
work we have to do to rebuild," said Michelle Rempel, Chair of
the convention's Host Committee. "Postponing the convention is
the right thing to do for the people of Calgary."
The flooding affected the grounds of the Calgary Stampede,
an annual extravaganza of cows, cowboys and horses scheduled to
start on July 5.
Nenshi insisted the rodeo would go ahead. "We're Calgarians.
We'll make it work," he said. "It may look different, but the
show will go on."