Thursday, May 29, 2008

Flood - USA (Wallaceville) MAY

It was a desperate scramble lasting well into Sunday morning to protect their homes from the onslaught of flood water.

The High River neighbourhood of Wallaceville bore its share of the flooding as a swollen Highwood River overrode its banks, curling around houses and trickling into basements.

High River residents Kerri and Todd Lencucha wear hip waders Sunday to check the damage in their backyard after the Highwood River crested. Both High River and Okotoks remained in a state of emergency Sunday as swollen rivers continued to threaten the communities south of Calgary
On Saturday night, a despairing Jamie Kinghorn resorted to filling reusable Sobey's bags with sand, packing them to the rear of his home in what would become a hopeless attempt to stave off the water.

Even with the late evening reinforcement of real sandbags and dozens of volunteers, river water poured into the basement of the 1A Street N.E. home.

Both High River and Okotoks remained in a state of emergency Sunday as engorged rivers continued to threaten those communities.

While the Elbow and Bow rivers running through Calgary continued to rise, city officials said the worst was over and no major flooding is expected.

"We made all operational adjustments and it looks like we're on the down side of water going through," said Paul Fesko, manager of strategic services with Calgary's water services department.

And by Sunday evening, it appeared the waters around High River were beginning to recede.

Although Wallaceville was hard hit, the rest of the town was spared substantial flooding.

But Kinghorn's home was one of the worst damaged in a neighbourhood where several houses became casualties of the Highwood River's overpowering reach.

Inside his basement, an upturned refrigerator -- one he said "normally stands upright and has beer in it" -- lay haphazardly in the pool.

Flood water reached almost to the toilet seat of the basement suite; a bed at another end was surrounded like a moat.

"How am I going to pay for this?" Kinghorn asked. "Where am I going to get the money to fix this?"

Kinghorn said his insurance will not cover the damage.

Despite a mandatory evacuation order Saturday night, most of the neighbourhood's approximately 80 residents chose to stay.

Doug and Leah Grafton just moved into their Wallaceville home in July. They knew of the flood dangers, but didn't think it would arrive this year.

At 4 a.m. Sunday, Doug thought they may have it beat. But by later in the morning, their basement was flooded with several inches of water.

"In three hours, we lost," he said.

Nonetheless, Doug said his family moved to the country to get away from the city, and he wants to stay.

"You know what, if it flooded every year I'd probably stay here," he said, adding the family will be sure to have their own supply of sandbags for next time.

Seventy-nine-year-old Lawrence McDonald and his wife, Donna, 76, were critical of the town's response to the flooding in Wallaceville.

They said sandbags were not delivered until too late. It was the third time in 13 years their basement has been flooded.

Such concerns over delays were echoed by Kinghorn, who said he warned the town of the rising waters, but authorities did not respond efficiently.

"Where was the town when we need them," he said.

The High River fire chief and director of emergency management said the first priority of crews was the safety of the entire town. - Source

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