Downtown Calgary shut down by flood: State of emergency declared

People in parts of Southern Alberta, including Calgary, watched helplessly Friday as flood waters rushed in and swamped roads and bridges and turned main streets into roaring rivers.
Images on social media showed Calgary’s Prince’s Island Park submerged underwater, as well as many bridges, including the 10th Street Bridge.
Major downtown streets such as Memorial looked like shots of Venice’s canals, while Cowtown’s hallowed Stampede Grounds – home to the city’s famous rodeo – was awash.
A Calgary Sun reporter Tweeted that water had reached the 13th tier of seats inside the Scotiabank Saddledome.
More rain on the way
Already deluged with 30 to 50 mm of heavy rain since Thursday, the provincial government was forecasting another 20 mm for the hard-hit region.
The heavy rain combined with snow melt triggered the flash floods on the Bow and Elbow Rivers which run through Calgary, as well as to the Red Deer, Sheep, Highwood and Oldman Rivers.
The provincial government called the increases in water levels “massive,” and said even though rivers west of Calgary had appeared to have peaked, “flooding danger and risks to personal safety remain extreme.”
Calgary has declared a state of emergency and the Canadian army is responding with troops to aid with disaster relief in the Southern Alberta city, which ordered the evacuation of some 30 neighborhoods holding about 75,000 people.
The army is expected to provide helicopters, engineering equipment and logistical support to help with further evacuations in Southern Alberta and aid in the impacted areas.

Image taken from Google's Alberta flooding map – June 21, 2013, 10 PM EST page
Every major downtown Calgary building shut down
The Calgary Building Owners and Manager’s Association (BOMA) advised that nearly every major building in the city was shut down as of Friday.
The list read like a property owner’s who’s who in Calgary and included the Devon Tower, the Shell Tower, the Banker’s Hall complex, the Stock Exchange Tower, Gulf Canada Square and many more.
Calgary contains approximately 45 million sq. ft. of commercial property in the downtown core.
It looked as if the insurance claims to commercial property following the floods could reach well into the millions of dollars as the flood waters appeared to be overwhelming the bottom floors of many commercial buildings in the city core.
Peter Machardy, BOMA Canada’s chair in Calgary, described the scene in Calgary as one of “devastation.”
Even so, Machardy downplayed the damage to the larger commercial centres. He said the buildings overall had done extremely well. He noted, though, that the multi-residential and condominiums were being hard hit with “significant flooding.”
Cadillac Fairview develop site flooded
Machardy also reported that the Cadillac Fairview site of its 1.6 million sq ft. office tower and multi-use development, Calgary City Centre, was flooded with water.
“Virtually everywhere you look, you’re seeing water in different parts of the city,” Machardy said.
Along with residential and condos, Machardy said retail might be hard-hit, noting that the city’s Eau Claire area was underwater.
Benjamin Shinewald, BOMA Canada’s president and CEO, said: “There’s a real sense of both challenge or worry on the one hand, and community and solidarity on the other. These kinds of situations often bring that kind of thing out in people.”
Shinewald said BOMA Calgary has been active in assisting their members during crisis. “When the water recedes, we’ll have a better sense of what’s going on.”
Generally, infrastructure didn’t seem to be weathering the storm well. A collapse of a section of Highway 1 near Banff shut down the highway, while a leak in a sour gas pipeline near Turner Valley prompted evacuation of a number of nearby residences.
A number of provincial agencies were also watching the storm’s impact on drinking and wastewater, as well as oil and gas operations.
New York invests in protection from extreme weather
Earlier this month, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, New York City released a plan that calls for $20 billion worth of protection for the East Coast metropolis, designed to fortify it against increasingly common extreme climate change events.
The report noted that in the 20 years leading up to Hurricane Sandy, the city experienced nine coastal storms and six heat waves. “These events have caused hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars of damage to buildings, infrastructure and the city’s economy,” the report noted.
The Building Resiliency Task Force identifies 33 measures that can be taken to bolster the city’s defence against natural climate events, including relocating mechanical equipment to higher floors or waterproofing them to protect against flooding; and designing sidewalks to capture stormwater during flash floods to help prevent localized flooding.
Shinewald believes the flooding won’t put a damper on the Western city’s current building boom, which he described as one of the most active in North America.
“That is an entrepreneurial place and that community will recover from this and precede forward with vigour and energy and bounce. No doubt there will be some lessons learned from this event, but this will not slow Calgary down.”

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