What are your memories of the 2013 flood? Readers share their stories

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After flow of floodwaters came a flow of goodwill from the community

I lived in the Parkhill community at the time of the 2013 flood, overlooking much of the active flooding in east Elbow Park, just below our community. While City of Calgary flood maps suggested that this area of Elbow Park would be primarily a spillover or a passive flooded area, I recall seeing waters raging down most of the streets and avenues. Floodway (dynamic) versus flood fringe (passive). Clearly not in accordance with the predicted flood mapping!

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The City had depressed 25th Avenue between the Elbow River reach in Mission and the reach in Ramsey. That allowed much of the flood torrent to divert and miss the Lindsay Park (now MNP Centre) loop. Here, the engineering was successful. (It may have negatively affected the Cemetery Hill LRT tunnel, but that’s another story.)

I saw a lot of good in the community over the coming weeks, starting almost immediately with my co-workers and me helping out clients and friends in the Rideau/Roxboro/Mission communities. The inundation and sediment that came with it left homeowners devastated. Everything that was flooded had to go, and the massive piles of debris began to mount outside almost every home in the Elbow River floodplain. Access to these areas had to be restricted after a few days to ensure the safety and security of the unoccupied homes. I saw much the same down in High River when our Rotary Club volunteered there in the weeks after the flood. The initial remedial work was fairly safe, but after several weeks, the work in Calgary and High River was increasingly risky due to bacteria and other effluent.

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We saw the best come out in our fellow Albertans. The annual Neighbour Day was intended to reflect that community spirit. And I hope it still will!

(I may be one of a small cohort of folks who also experienced the 2020 ice flood event in Fort McMurray as well.)

— Chris Davis; senior manager/municipal lawyer; Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo


Share your stories with us at [email protected] or by commenting at the bottom of this post.


Homes lost; damages huge

Many lost their homes; thousands had years worth of damage to deal with. Our city is still dealing with infrastructure problems.

Shirley Bates, on Facebook


‘Remarkable experience to be on the receiving end of so much kindness’

Home of the Best family during 2013 flood
The Best family home is circled at the far left of this photo.

Our family home (circled in the photo) was flooded in 2013 — a home built around 1911, with one of Calgary’s most beautiful gardens painstakingly maintained by my parents. Looking at the Roxboro flood photo brings back memories, some sad but so many that left me speechless at the time by the kindness of strangers. My parents were 83 at the time and, in the end, the province bought their property due to the extensive damage — six feet of water on the main floor.

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My parents were overwhelmed by the damage the flood inflicted on their property and grappled with how to begin the recovery. It didn’t take long before the first strangers showed us how a community was going to help out. First on the scene were two young neighbourhood girls bringing a wagon of homemade cookies carefully wrapped with a message of well-wishes. From there it grew. Every day, there was a group of Calgarians on the scene ready to help however they could — a set of hands to clear debris or a wagon filled with food and water. Every day my parents and I were brought to tears by the neighbours, friends and strangers that wanted to help.

We had a group of six young men who went to high school together in the northeast arrive at our place one morning. They were in Grade 12 and had taken the bus down to Roxboro fully prepared to spend a day helping out. These young men had very little in common with my parents — different cultures, different religions — and none of that mattered. They worked non-stop the entire day. By the end of the day, they were covered in muck from head to toe, still smiling.

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The Edmonton Fire Dept. had a crew in the Roxboro neighbourhood right after the flood. They arrived at our house at exactly the right time. My mom is from a very thrifty generation that can’t bear to spend an extra penny. She was determined to keep her kitchen appliances and clean them up to go back into the kitchen once repaired. These gents asked if there was anything they could help with and I told them my fear of my mom keeping these appliances that would now be unsafe to use again. Straight in the door they went and one headed straight to my mom who was in awe of the handsome firemen that had just descended on her. He told her she cannot keep the appliances; they are unsafe. He said his team would disconnect them and put them in a dumpster. She didn’t even have a moment to argue as this crew had the kitchen appliances, hot water tank and furnace disconnected and tossed out in what seemed like minutes. Thank you, Edmonton Fire Department!

My parents worked tirelessly every day until well past dinner time. We were sitting on the front steps one evening when walking down the street came a youth leadership group from the Mormon Church. It was late so most residents had called it quits for the day, but they found us. We had a pile of garbage that would have taken us an entire day to load into the dumpster but they set up the line and hand-bombed a mountain of debris into the dumpster in an hour. We were so grateful!

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My parents moved across the river into a condo overlooking what was once their home but is now an empty lot. We often talked about the flood, never about the hardship, always about the community that was going to do everything it could to help those affected. It was a remarkable experience to be on the receiving end of so much kindness. We think we don’t have much in common as we have different backgrounds, ethnicity or religions, but we do. The world is filled with people who want to help others unconditionally. The number of people who lent us a hand has never been forgotten.

Thank you to everyone who walked in our door!

Carolyn Best, business development manager at ATCO


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Preparations for emergency pay off

I had recently been appointed to lead security at the then National Energy Board, a federal government agency headquartered in Calgary. One of my responsibilities was the organization’s business continuity planning with a small, very hard-working team.

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In the weeks before the flood, we had reviewed and updated the previous plan – leveraging the facilities made available to us by Commissionaires Canada that we had chosen strategically (in a different part of Calgary from our facilities, a different part of the electrical grid, water mains, etc.)

We had pre-positioned all the equipment our leadership might need to rely on in a crisis – computers, extra communications equipment, the works. While the facilities were austere, they were just what the NEB needed when the flood closed our downtown offices and mission-critical work had to go on. Thanks to the support my team and I had received from our executives before the flood, we were well-prepared to support them!

Richard Garber, former group leader of security for the National Energy Board (now Canada’s Energy Regulator)


Previous governments failed on flood mitigation

While I lived, and still live, near the (Glenmore) Reservoir, watching the water go downstream was dreadful … I just wonder why the previous government did not listen to an earlier report saying this will happen. They sat on their hands, and we are lucky only one poor person (in Calgary) lost their life. Sadly, no one knew she was in her place without power and heating, and it ended for her. Let us remember the poor, before we say, “Well it was not me.”

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The city was lucky; we had a great mayor, Naheed Nenshi, and a group around him to make the disaster less damaging. People lost possessions, homes and parts of what they own, but you know these can be replaced somewhat; lives cannot. People will always say what went wrong – lots. But you know, most of our city made it out alive.

Jack Meyer, southwest Calgary


Factory submerged near Deerfoot Trail

Lafarge plant in Calgary during 2013 flood
Photo of Lafarge plant submitted by William Hennessy.

I was a water services employee on the job in June 2013. This photo shows the Lafarge plant off Deerfoot Trail, partially submerged during the flood.

Bill Hennessy


Financial losses from inundation continue to hurt

I lived in a condo by the Mission Bridge on 4th Street S.W. My computer network was located below ground level. Five years’ worth of work and $2 million was lost and I was financially ruined. There was no compensation from the City. Now 75 years old, I am still suffering. 

Doug Arnett


Stellar civic leadership during time of crisis

What struck me most about that terrible time in our city is how very lucky we were to have such a professional and competent mayor, Naheed Nenshi, guide us through it. His leadership was stellar and I’m still very proud he was our mayor. Although I wasn’t personally affected by the flood, I was so happy by the way all Calgarians came together and helped out others who lost so much! I’m one proud Calgarian.

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Lorraine, Calgary


Bow River flooding felt far downstream

The Bow River really damaged the Siksika Nation, east of Calgary.

Wendy Patterson


Seeing the best in people

As the old saying goes, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. The destruction along the Elbow and Bow rivers was horrific. So many people lost so many things. But, at the same time, it was uplifting to see how people came together and helped each other in the face of this disaster. Truly Calgarian, truly Albertan, truly Canadian.

Mary Jackson, Calgary; on Facebook


What about the Bow?

A dam and reservoir system is being built along the Elbow (the Springbank reservoir), but what will happen for the Bow? Options are still being discussed, we’re told. But, we need action, not options. No one wants to see the Bow flood again. It could be a disaster waiting to happen.

Hank O’Hallaron; on Facebook


The Calgary Zoo and Calgary Stampede

I remember being in awe of the Calgary Zoo during the flood. They moved so many animals out of the flood zone in such a short period. They deserve a standing ovation for what they did, and so does the Calgary Stampede. Opening up the Stampede just two weeks after being flooded out was a big deal!

Jenny Haughey; on Twitter

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