Moved by the need to get back to work, or the desire to get out of the house, Calgarians began trickling back to downtown corporate towers in greater numbers Wednesday as the city continued efforts to clean up and recover after massive floods.
On the same day, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the flooding that hit the city and other Alberta communities one week ago has affected thousands of Calgary homes, from those that have an inch of water in their basement to those that will have to be torn down. “We have houses that engineers are looking at that may well be condemned,” Mr. Nenshi said.
In the city’s downtown, many people defied the city’s pleas to stay out, and in many areas – especially in the west end of downtown that was less hard-hit by the floods – the street scene appeared somewhat normal. However, signs of the ongoing state of emergency were everywhere, including piles of debris, teams of city crews roaming the streets, and hoses spitting water out from parking garages. Many buildings still don’t have electricity restored. The Bow building, Calgary’s tallest tower named after one of the rivers that flooded the city, stood quiet and empty.
Just across the river from downtown, in the neighbourhood of Sunnyside, people and construction vehicles buzzed around streets piled high with garbage – what was left over of peoples’ possessions destroyed by flood water that filled their basements and sometimes main floors.
In the front room of his muddied Sunnyside home, energy lawyer Sean Wilson sat at a coffee table signing documents related to a business deal. He had too much to clean up to go to his downtown office on Wednesday, but still had work to do. “The show must go on,” Mr. Wilson said.
While many Calgarians have seen their homes or businesses flooded, many neighbourhoods – especially those in the outer suburbs of the city – are not directly affected. Suniel Puri, a cost manager at a pipeline company who lives in the city’s deep south, took the bus downtown on Wednesday.
“I have so much to do,” Mr. Puri said. “I can’t just sit at home.”
For others, it was cabin fever that brought them out. IT worker Kenneth Inkster walked downtown to check on the Suncor building where he works. The building was still closed, but he hopes to get back to work on Thursday.
“To be honest, I just need to get out of the house,” he said. “I have three small kids.”
Thousands are cleaning up after the biggest flood in Alberta’s history, which also hit the mountain community of Canmore, the Siksika First Nation east of Calgary and, most devastatingly, the town of High River. In Calgary, about 10,000 homes and businesses are still without power. The cleanup will stretch into weeks, if not months.
Calgary police have also now said that an 83-year-old woman found dead in her lower-level apartment near the Elbow River died of “accidental drowning.” Police said they had made contact with her last Thursday when the evacuation order for her neighbourhood was initiated, and she had indicated she was going to leave. They said they didn’t have any reason to believe she couldn’t do it on her own.
“The apartment was ground level and had taken on water from the floods,” Calgary Deputy Police Chief Roger Chaffin told reporters. “I couldn’t even speculate as to how she became overcome by the water.”
But there are more signs of things returning to normal. Court proceedings will resume Thursday after adjournments since the floods hit the city June 20. The main thoroughfare of Macleod Trail – which partially collapsed in the flooding – has been reopened. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce has launched an initiative to help businesses recover from the floods.
Still, city officials are asking non-essential staff to work from home to keep the traffic down and help the recovery efforts go more smoothly.