Come Hell or High Water

The Calgary flood of 2013 has been all over the news lately so I’m sure it won’t come as news to most of you readers. Even my uncle in Holland messaged me, “I hope you don’t have wet feet.” I am very fortunate to not have had my home flooded but I think everyone in Calgary has been affected in their own way and has their own story to tell.

On Thursday, June 20th word came out that communities were going to be evacuated. Friends of mine in Bridgeland were in the know from religiously checking Twitter updates #yycflood. They wisely had moved their vehicles to higher ground and were awaiting the news on their evacuation when I went to visit them.

Bow River, June 20th

Bow River, June 20th

On my way there I stopped by the Bow river to see what all the fuss what about. I saw chocolate milk water barely passing under the Langevin Bridge, trees steeping in water at what was once the river’s edge, and a family of geese trying to get to dry land (see left photo).

At this point I wasn’t quite sure what all the hype was about. Certainly the river was rising, but was it really the state of emergency they were saying it was? I was doubtful. I was just hoping that the newly plastered murals alongside the River Walk weren’t going to get damaged.


The view from the inside out

My Bridgeland friends were evacuated an hour later, and were soon to be out of their homes for 1-6 weeks because of the parking garage of their condo being flooded.

In the coming hours I learned new rhetoric like cresting and foreclosure and realized that perhaps there was more to this flood than initially met the eye.


The view from the outside in

My dear friend, who lives (lived?) in Mission was in Hawaii at the time. So her friends had connected to see what we could salvage when some traffic was allowed in again on Sunday, June 23rd. I thought I came prepared with rubber boots on and a shovel strapped into my bike panier but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw as we pulled into her street. There was lots of activity all around: pumps emptying out basements, residents hosing mud off of furniture, dump trucks and pick-up trucks full of garbage. As the water on roads were drying out, dust, leaves, branches, and deep mud rivets remained. You could tell a river had coursed through here. My friend’s condo unit is (was?) a semi-basement suite and her patio door frame had been ripped out of its foundation which allowed for her couch and some of her additional living room’s contents to be squished against the patio railing. Insulation entwined with branches wrapped around the railing. Amidst the clutter were pieces of textbook from my friends cherished library.

I optimistically and naively touted that we could save the couch. I quickly learned that very little could be salvaged. The place that my friend had made so homey and “zen”, as she would say, was now an eerie, dank wreckage. We got to work.

Many times I was thankful that my friend wasn’t actually there to see how much of her stuff we actually had to throw away. But, at the same time, I knew that she would feel a bit better if we could salvage something. As the do crew* was hauling out the appliances, shoveling out mud, and tearing out the floorboards, I assumed my role as muddy clothes washer. I was determined to save some of my friend’s carefully compiled wardrobe!


The ingenious three tier clothes washing system

*What struck me most was the amount of people that showed up. A girl who had met my friend a total of three times sent out a mass email about the Sunday night cleanup and at one point 15 people were voluntarily schlepping through mud to be any help that they could be. At the onslaught of the purge three random volunteers showed up and asked how they could help. Soon they were hoisting shovel fulls onto the trash heap and one gloveless guy was helping roll up a rug!

In the end 70% of my friend’s belongings were lost. She is now back from Hawaii and is so thankful for all that has been done for her but she’s worried, and sad. She sits with a lot of questions. Why rebuild when another flood is possible? Should she walk away from her mortgage and start over somewhere else?

They may seem like first world questions, especially when India has just lost over 1000 people due to monsoon flooding but loss, no matter how big or small, is distressing and no one can quantify that but the loser.


About hannahslomp

I have an interest in arts and culture wherever my bicycle takes me. My travels have allowed me to realize that there is ingenuity wherever you go, you just have to go off the beaten municipal bike path.
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