If you live close by, or have been watching the news then you already know about the unprecedented devastation that happened over the weekend as our rivers surged. The water was carrying away houses, tearing down bridges, and pooling over entire city centers.
We had been watching on the news and twitter as the situation rapidly changed with nearby towns like High River being practically swallowed up. By the time it hit Calgary (YYC) the neighbourhoods at risk were evacuated and we were all wondering what our city would look like in the morning.
I was checking twitter the moment I woke up, before I even got out of bed and was greeted with images of friend's neighbourhoods completely under water. Even though we knew it was coming, it was a huge huge shock. Despite the fact that our house was not in any danger, the photos made my heart drop.
We had previously made plans for a road trip to visit some friends for a birthday party. The car was packed with suitcases and cookies, but with the road closures, rain, and general confusion we turned the car around and went home. Once home, we decided to go for a walk in the rain. We weren't sure if we would see anything because we're high up elevation-wise and a good distance from the river.
But it only took a 15-20 minute walk down a hill before we found a street and park completely submerged. Other families and their dogs were also walking around, everyone asking about each others houses and commenting on the damage.
Houses like this had water up to the tips of their front gates and it went for blocks before it actually met up with the river.
There really wasn't anything we could do, but the sight was mesmerizing. We all stood around in the rain watching the water visibly creep its way up the street until I realized the rain had soaked through every layer and that we should probably go home.
We spent the next few days glued to news reports and twitter, checking out every photo and waiting for Mayor Nenshi's updates (can you say "Best Mayor Ever"?!). It became clear at the rest of Calgary felt the same way that we did: wanting to help instead of just watching it happen.
News reports came that evacuation centers were barely filled because Calgarians were offering up every bit of spare space they had to evacuees, even for people they had never met before.
Instead having to report looting and widespread panic and confusion, the media was covering how hard the city was working to keep everyone safe. The food community was in full force on twitter with local chefs and food trucks offering free meals and support to evacuees and volunteers. Everyone could see what was happening and they wanted their friends/coworkers/neighbours of neighbours to know that they weren't going to have to deal with this alone.
By Monday morning, much of the water had receded and many people were allowed to return to their houses. At 7am that morning Mayor Nenshi put up a request on twitter for volunteers to come to the stadium by 10am if they wanted to help. They were hoping for 700-800 people and in a few short hours over 2,500 volunteers had showed up.
There is still so much damage to be dealt with, and nearby town High River's situation remains dire, but the outpouring of support and generosity from Calgarians makes it seem like everyone is going to pick up the pieces together.
I've lived in a number of cities across Canada (Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Kelowna to name a few) and I always tell people that Calgary is the friendliest city I have ever, ever been in.
Hands down, the friendliest. (I won't tell you which one I thought was the un-friendliest)
Usually the reaction is "Really? Calgary is your favorite?" and I've found it hard to describe the community feeling that I get from living here. But I think in a time of crisis like this it becomes clear that there is a strong community and a feeling of connection and pride for the place that you live and the people you share it with. So not only does my heart go out to those affected by the flooding, it also goes out to all of YYC.