Calgary Floods Force 75,000 to Evacuate, Offices to Shut

Police in Calgary, home to Canada’s oil industry, ordered 75,000 residents to leave their homes and closed most of downtown after heavy rains flooded parts of the city. Three deaths were reported outside the metropolitan area.

Suncor Energy Inc., Canada’s largest energy company by market value, was among businesses closing offices yesterday as workers were told to stay home and schools, bridges and roads were shut. The Bow and Elbow rivers, which meet near the middle of Calgary, surged from their banks into neighborhoods and were expected to remain high for several days.

Calgary imposed a state of local emergency and began evacuations on June 20, according to the city’s website. Residents also were advised to leave their homes in communities across a more than 150-mile (250-kilometer) stretch of southern Alberta, where rain-swollen rivers flowed east from the Rocky Mountains and flooded low-lying areas in the foothills and prairies.

“The Bow is moving higher and faster than I have ever seen in my lifetime,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said yesterday at a news conference. “Avoid all travel that is not absolutely necessary.”

Two bodies have been recovered in the town of High River and one person is missing and presumed dead there, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sargeant Josee Valiquette said by telephone today. The town of 13,000 is about 30 miles south of Calgary.

Surging Waters

Calgary suffered its worst flooding in about a century in June 2005 when surging waters damaged 40,000 homes and forced the evacuation of 1,500 people, according to the city website. Water on the Elbow River late on June 20 was flowing more than three times faster than during the 2005 flood, Alberta Premier Alison Redford told reporters yesterday.

Six to eight inches (150 to 200 millimeters) of rain fell into the river basins near Calgary since June 19, and more than 12 inches fell in the Sheep River basin southwest of Calgary, the city said in a statement today. Another inch of rain is expected today.

In Calgary, police ordered the evacuation of downtown buildings, Bruce Burrell, director of the city’s emergency management agency, said at a separate press conference yesterday. All of the city’s bridges were closed, some were under water and power was out in many downtown buildings, said Ryan Jestin, Calgary’s director of roads.

Tenth Row

Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome, where events are scheduled to be held during the Calgary Stampede in two weeks, was flooded up to the 10th row yesterday, according to Trevor Daroux, the city’s deputy police chief. Animals from the Calgary Zoo were evacuated or moved to higher ground, he said.

Fraser Logan, a Canadian Forces spokesman, said 1,200 regular troops from Edmonton were being deployed to southern Alberta yesterday. The soldiers were to provide humanitarian relief, conduct search-and-rescue missions and help with evacuation, while police remain responsible for security, Logan said.

Chris Mauer, who works in institutional sales at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said he saw a deck that had broken off a house smash into a bridge over the Elbow River yesterday morning in southwest Calgary.

The flood “is going to be a big, big problem,” Mauer said in a telephone interview.

‘Epic Flooding’

People in several other towns in southern Alberta were evacuated, including from High River, Okotoks, Black Diamond, Canmore and the ski resort town of Banff.

A low pressure system moved in off the Pacific and crossed the U.S. Pacific Northwest earlier this week, said Bernie Rayno, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. The movement of the storm and the topography of the Canadian Rocky Mountains create “ideal conditions” for heavy rain, Rayno said.

“Some areas in the mountains got 5 inches of rain in 24 hours,” Rayno said. “Where is that water going to go? Down into the streams. Epic flooding is occurring in southern Alberta. This is as bad as it gets.”

Suncor operations haven’t been affected by the flooding, Sneh Seetal, a company spokeswoman, said by e-mail yesterday. Husky Energy Inc. had closed some of its gas stations in the affected areas of Calgary and asked only essential staff to be at work yesterday, Mel Duvall, a spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Cargill Inc. suspended cattle slaughter at its meat-processing facility in High River yesterday because the plant was unable to access fresh water, Chantelle Donahue, director of corporate affairs, said yesterday in a telephone interview. The facility, which normally processes 4,000 to 4,500 cattle a day, hadn’t been directly affected by flooding, she said.

Christian Roman, a 27-year-old plumbing apprentice, was stranded downtown on his way to work yesterday in the city’s northeast quadrant because of transportation disruptions.

“Everything seems to be in disarray,” Roman said.