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Sep 02

Southern Alberta Flooding Lessons

Posted by: Vicki Thomas in DRJ Blogs

Vicki Thomas

In 2005, citizens of Southern Alberta were deeply impacted by what Environment Canada named the "top weather event of the year"... And yes, we're talking about heavy flooding that resulted in 14 municipalities declaring a state of emergency. Residents of Canmore, High River and Calgary were evacuated...

Sounds kind of similar doesn't it to the experiences of Southern Alberta citizens this past summer... In mid-June, the province and in particular the communities of Calgary, High River and Canmore were hit once again with severe flooding. Flooding that resulted in the closure of downtown Calgary, emergency evacuations of people from their homes, closure of businesses, deaths, and the complete loss of homes and businesses. 

Now 60 days or so since the flooding hit Alberta, the province, communities and people are still struggling to pick up the pieces and get back to a normal life. Through out this ordeal there have been news reports and stories of tremendous community spirit - of people coming together to help one another in the clean-up efforts and of people who were not impacted by the floods opening their homes to those who were. 

But there is a dark grey cloud hovering over this community-based goodwill... Slowly but surely people are asking about lessons learned from 2005, about preparations and protection measures that could have been put in place, of how the province and communities could have been better prepared, and how and when the people of Southern Alberta are going to recover from this disaster. 

As is often the case when a disaster such as this occurs, people are quick to remember the past and in the case of the 2013 Alberta flooding - people want to know why the province wasn't better prepared. While the emergency response plans and actions in Calgary, Canmore and High River have been praised for speed and effectiveness - the question still lingers about why measures weren't in place to ensure that the swelling Bow River and higher than normal rainfall did not devastate the area. With a $5 billion price tag attached to the 2013 flood recovery, experts highlight that officials are still conditioned to react to natural disasters rather than be prepared for the disaster before it strikes.

As a result of the 2005 flooding, a report was compiled that included 18 recommendations - among them urging the province to stop development on Crown land in high-risk flood zones. Now as a result of the 2013 flooding, the Alberta government has announced new building regulations in flood zones...

While news of these new regulations is a positive move for the future of the province - many citizens are wondering why they are still homeless, suffering from record retail and business losses, are struggling to collect the money promised to them by the province to rebuild their homes and businesses, and essentially wondering when they can return to a normal life.