First, in typical Canadian fashion, an apology to my readers for not blogging these last few weeks. My life has been turned upside down and inside out.
It started our as an ordinary day; the date, Thursday, June 21. I made it in to work by 7:30 am ready to get as much done before heading out on vacation the next day. At 8:30, a co-worker came in and said the Centre St bridge is closed. For anyone familiar with High River, this is not an unusual occurrence in June during flood season. It had rain quite hard overnight. I called my in-laws to see if they needed help. They told me they were just getting up, and why did they need help. I told them the town was on flood watch.
My husband had dropped our kids off at the preschool at 8:30, and by 9:30, I received a call to pick up our girls immediately as they were evacuating the preschool. There was already a couple of feet of water on the road in front of the school when he got there. They then transported a bunch of kids to a store a few blocks away until other parents could come.
My husband stopped at home and when his parents never came (they were planning on coming to help with a few last minute things before we went on holidays), he thought they were in trouble, so he started the trek to their house.
He then called me around 11am and Ryan and his dad were contemplating getting some sand bags. By this point they thought it would potentially take too long, so instead they moved what they could to higher ground.
Around 11:30 am, Ryan texts me and asks me to check on our house as the water was bad. At work, some employees from our downtown office started to arrive with water marks up to their knees.
I arrived to my block, and this is what I saw:
First thought was I need to get my dog. I saw some Atco Gas workers on the corner and told them our dog needed to be rescued. One kind fellow volunteered. The water in the intersection was up to his knees. I thought about trying to get our motorhome out of there; then they started evacuating the few neighbours who happened to still be home. I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.
My husband, in-laws and children were now stranded, and I tried finding us a safe haven. I never thought our safe haven would have ended up one if the hardest hit areas.
I wasn’t reunited with my family until around 5:30 that evening. We were them told they were evacuating the entire town.
Around that time, the town lost the levy protecting the one end of town that was designed never to flood. So it flooded, and parts still remain underwater today.
I talked to my parents that day. They offered to help. I said it was too late. The water came so fast. I told them to start preparing their house as they are in Medicine Hat. The flood hit them a few days later. Still devastating in some parts of Medicine Hat, yet nothing will compare to the Hugh River flood.
Thirteen days later, we were finally allowed back to our house. It was incredible. Water came 5 feet up in our basement. Since we were not allowed in sooner, mold started to grow. A thick layer of mud coated the floors.
We were fortunate, our main floor was untouched. Although the stench of the fridges was astronomical. Even the clothes that were untouched have an awful stagnant smell to them. Pillows thrown out. Our mattresses might need to go.
The most incredible part is this has affected the entire town. It wasn’t simply the few idiots who own houses on the flood plan. During the early cleanup and rescue phases, the military occupied the town. Now there are police everywhere, piles of rubble, everywhere, people mucking mud, everywhere.
It has been amazing how the community has pulled together. We are grateful for all the volunteers. For the volunteer vac trucks. For the Tide truck to allow residents to do laundry. For everyone’s health and safety.
It will take a long time to heal from this wound. It will be one step of the way. It has been an emotional rollercoaster!
We never did make it on our holiday. Now the cleanup begins. I look at it from the point where it is now the chance to organize my house. To purge many unneeded things (of course the stuff that was not damaged).
The town is still my home, and it’s time to start a fresh.
Thank you again to all the volunteers. Your help is deeply appreciated. Our town will get rebuilt, one step at a time.