Heavy rains hammering southern Alberta caused mudslides

PHOTOS — Flooding in southern Alberta

Heavy rains hammering southern Alberta caused mudslides, forced homeowners onto rooftops and swept two people inside a mobile home into a rain-swollen river on Thursday.



Heavy rains hammering southern Alberta caused mudslides, forced homeowners onto rooftops and swept two people inside a mobile home into a rain-swollen river on Thursday.

A STARS air ambulance spokesman said a man and a woman went into the Highwood River near Black Diamond. The man was rescued within a few hours.

“One female adult had been stranded on a trailer and also a second adult male had been stranded on a nearby flatbed,” said Cam Heke.

”We did respond to the area. The female adult was no longer on the trailer and was missing. We did conduct a search along the river and we were unable to locate that missing person.

“However, the male adult was on the trailer and local emergency services with another helicopter organization … were able to rescue that man.”

The heavy rains created flashpoints of confusion from north of Calgary south to Lethbridge and west to the Rocky Mountain parks.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued for several areas in the town of High River, 40 km southeast of Calgary, as the Highwood River rose. Everyone was told to find higher ground.

High River Mounties were calling for help from residents with motorboats to help rescue at least a dozen stranded homeowners.

“We have people on their rooftops that were unable to evacuate fast enough,” said Calgary RCMP Sgt. Patricia Neely.

The town hospital was evacuated and residents of a seniors residence were told to leave. Even the original evacuation centre had to be moved as floodwaters threatened.

“It’s bad,” said High River spokeswoman Joan Botkin.

“The most unnerving thing, I guess, is that river forecasters are predicting — if we receive another 40 millimetres of rain — the Highwood will crest at about 1,270 cubic metres a second between noon and early evening. We encounter flooding at around 210 cubic metres.”

Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning for the affected areas, estimating as much as 100 millimetres more rain could fall in the next two days.

The town of Nanton, south of High River, said it was preparing to receive High River evacuees.

Near High River, water threatened roads and homes and forced residents to flee in the communities of Black Diamond and Turner Valley along what is know as the Cowboy Trail in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Barry Williamson, a councillor in Turner Valley, said that community was in danger of being cut off as well. Traffic was being restricted on the two bridges out of town as water levels crept within a metre of the their decks. The third road out is in a flood-prone area.

Two small subdivisions, home to about 50 people, were being evacuated, he said.

“Go back to 2005, that was our 100-year flood here,” Williamson said. “This is looking to be higher than that in terms of the flow of the river and height of the rivers.”

The Alberta Energy Regulator reported flooding may have caused a sour gas leak near Turner Valley.

Spokeswoman Kim Blanchette said there were multiple reports of the leak, but details were sketchy.

An Alberta Emergency Alert was issued saying the rupture was potentially life-threatening and urged people to move indoors and prepare for a possible evacuation.

Sour gas is colourless, natural gas that smells like rotten eggs. It contains hydrogen sulphide and is extremely toxic even in small amounts.

In the mountain parks, mudslides forced the closure of the Trans-Canada Highway, isolating Banff and Canmore. Campers at Two Jack Lakeside campground were moved to higher ground.

Highways north and south of Banff were also shut down.

“It’s a real mess,” said Neely. “Not to make light — things are very fluid as to what is going to happen. It will take a little while before these roads are passable.”

Parks Canada spokeswoman Michelle Macullo said people caught inside the park didn’t really have many options.

“Right now, if people are in Canmore they can get to Banff. People from Banff can get to Canmore,” she said. “We just have to wait to see what the weather presents.”

Canmore spokeswoman Sally Caudill said motorists were trapped overnight Wednesday by water spilling over the Trans-Canada and had to be rescued by helicopter.

“We had about 20 or so people on the highway … who got stuck,” she said.

Caudill said Cougar Creek, which runs through her community, was rising quickly Thursday. The town’s website said the creek’s banks were unstable and dangerous.

“Cougar Creek is very serious and changing very quickly,” Caudill said. “Homes that back immediately onto the creek have been evacuated starting at about 3 this morning. We are now extending that evacuation.”

In Calgary, heavy rainfall and lightning overnight Wednesday sparked power outages and flashing traffic signals in every area of the city. Crews were out Thursday trying to repair the damage.

The city declared a local state of emergency and said there was sandbagging in some locations as the Bow and Elbow rivers continued to rise.

In Lethbridge, a few neighbourhoods were evacuated and city officials were urging parents to pick their children up early from school. They expected the Oldman River would rise during the day and cut off travel across the city.

In Sundre, 80 km north of Calgary, dozens of homes were under mandatory evacuation order along both sides of the swollen Red Deer River.

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