Floodwaters that were responsible for the deaths of at least three people made their way into the heart of Alberta's largest city, forcing the evacuation of at least 75,000 people from their homes over the weekend.
In downtown Calgary, water was inundating homes and businesses in the shadow of skyscrapers. Water has swamped cars and train tracks.Officials estimate that as many as 350,000 people work in downtown Calgary on any given weekday, but that was not a problem on Friday as most residents and commuters heeded official warnings about travelling to downtown Calgary.
The city said the home rink of the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames flooded and the water inside was 10 rows deep. That would mean the dressing rooms are likely submerged as well.
"I think that really paints a very clear picture of what kinds of volumes of water we are dealing with," said Trevor Daroux, the city's deputy police chief.
At the grounds for the world-famous Calgary Stampede fair, water reached up to the roofs of the chuck wagon barns. The popular rodeo and festival is the city's signature event. Mayor Nenshi said it will occur no matter what.
About 1,500 have gone to emergency shelters while the rest have found shelter with family or friends, Nenshi said.
The flood was forcing emergency plans at the Calgary Zoo, which is situated on an island near where the Elbow and Bow rivers meet. Lions and tigers were being prepared for transfer, if necessary, to prisoner holding cells at the courthouse.
Schools and court trials were canceled Friday and residents urged to avoid downtown. Transit service in the core was shut down.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford warned that communities downstream of Calgary had not yet felt the full force of the floodwaters.
ordered the evacuation of more than 10,000 residents of low-lying areas around Medicine Hat, AB. Water from the Bow River flows into the South Saskatchewan River, which bisects the town of about 60,000.
The flooding has also affected a number of Indian reservations (called First Nations Communities in Canada) to the south and east of Calgary and residents have been advised to boil tapwater before using it. Nearby schools are closed until further notice as many of them are being used to shelter evacuees.
The Canadian military was activated to help with flood control and evacuation in the province. Canadian Prime minister Stephen Harper, a Calgary resident himself, viewed the damage from above via helicopter.
To the west, the flooding had knocked Canadian Pacific's transcontinental mainline out of commission between Banff and Calgary, leaving some CP freight trains stranded in Alberta or British Columbia as the railroad negotiates with Canadian National and other carriers to accommodate detour traffic. Additional damage, including a washed out bridge, has been reported on CP's Crowsnest subdivision further south.
With a population of one million, Calgary is the largest city in Alberta and fifth largest metropolitan area in Canada. The TransCanada Highway and Canadian Pacific's transcontinental mainline both pass through the city. The city is probably best known as an energy and agricultural hub for western Canada and home of the Calgary Stampede- a 10 day rodeo and exhibition held every July in the city [Organizers of this year's Stampede have announced that the event will go on as planned, despite there being less than two weeks from the scheduled start- NANESB!] Calgary hosted the 1988 winter Olympics and is the home of the NHL's Calgary Flames as well as the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League and Calgary Hitmen of the WHL.
While much of the drilling and refining takes place elsewhere in the province, Calgary has been an administrative center for the oil and natural gas companies operating in western Canada since the 1970s- more than 80% of the gas companies operating in Canada are based out of Calgary. In 1996, the Canadian Pacific Railway relocated their headquarters from Montreal to Calgary.