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The Bow River swells over its banks in downtown Calgary, Alta. Heavy rains have caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuations in Calgary on Thursday, June 20, 2013.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The impulse to stay put when ordered to evacuate your home as a precautionary measure is a strong one, but it should be ignored. Our thoughts go out to people in Calgary and other southern Alberta towns and communities as they are faced with the grim task of walking away from their lives while they wait out the devastating flooding occurring there. As painful as that is, citizens need to heed the advice of authorities and play it as safe as possible until the worst is over.

Footage coming in from the town of Canmore is hard to believe. Cougar Creek, normally a benign trickle, according to people who live beside it, has turned into an ever-widening torrent of water, trees, rocks and household appliances. The scale and power of the flooding are unprecedented. The waters are eating away the shore and have started to dissolve the backyards of homes, taking with them the swing sets, the picnic tables, the wading pools. There are now fears that the homes themselves could fall into the waters; at the very least, their foundations have been compromised. And more rain is coming.

In Calgary, the Bow River has risen "higher and faster than I have ever seen in my lifetime," Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters at 5 a.m. Friday. The Elbow has crested, but it may remain high for many hours to come. Tens of thousands of Calgarians have been ordered to evacuate their homes, which they have done for the most part. It is critical that citizens obey evacuation orders when flooding occurs on this scale. The police officers, firefighters and other city workers who focus on public safety – many of whom have been working 24 hours straight at this point – need to be able to operate without hindrance or complication.

Downtown Calgary was badly flooded Friday morning, and 17 of the bridges in the city were closed. Calgarians should heed the mayor's request to stay home, avoid all unnecessary travel, and wait out the worst of it with families and friends. Those in Canmore and other afflicted areas should do the same. At last reports, no one was missing or killed. The only thing that matters now is the continued personal safety of everyone caught in the floods' paths. The waters will recede. They always do.