How the 2013 floods left a lasting impact and sparked a legacy
Ten years ago on a grey and gloomy Thursday morning, racing rivers upstream of Calgary, angry and swollen from days of torrential downpour carving away at melting snowpack, sped towards Calgary. It was the largest recorded flood in our city since 1897. The impact resulted in more than 80,000 people being evacuated from 26 communities; the closure of LRT stations, bridges and turning the power off to a number communities and businesses.
Due to the tenacity of Calgarians, a commitment to our city, and unwavering community resolve, over the last 10 years we have rebuilt our city to be better - better resilience, better emergency planning and preparedness and better education and awareness of our flood risk.
“It was the largest natural disaster in Canada at the time,” says Mayor Jyoti Gondek. ”While it was a trying time for many, it cast a light on our character as a city showcasing a reputation of kindness and compassion that carries on to this day.”
In September 2012, just nine months earlier, our Emergency Operations Centre opened. It was prioritized as a critical piece of infrastructure to be built after experiencing the 2005 floods. However, no one could have expected it would be put to the test so soon after opening its doors.
“We were so fortunate to have this amazing state-of-the-art facility to bring together CEMA agency members and partners to work shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip during this critical time,” says Sue Henry, Chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency & 911. “The flood allowed us to hone our emergency management practices, develop greater connections with our colleagues and the communities we serve and evolve to become an even stronger resource for Calgarians today.”
Since 2013, The City and the province have invested heavily in various flood mitigation measures to reduce the impact of flooding on our city. As a result, we are 55 per cent more flood resilient than we were in 2013, and will be 70 per cent more flood resilient once the Springbank dry dam is built.
“We have worked consistently since 2013 on flood mitigation and preparedness," says Frank Frigo, Manager of Environmental Management. "While we have completed or collaborated on over 35 projects, we know that there is still more work to do, and that people are still experiencing the effects of the 2013 floods. This is why we will continue our work to build flood resilience, as well as monitor, communicate and share information with Calgarians on flood risk."
A commemorative video featuring the role the Emergency Operations Centre played in our city’s emergency response during the 2013 floods and the perspectives of City leaders that helped to shape our emergency preparedness and resilience to this day, featuring former mayors Dave Bronconnier and Naheed Nenshi.
“Today, one decade later, we’ve come a long way in terms of flood mitigation and emergency management,” says Gondek. “I am proud of where our city has come over the last ten years and look forward to the progress we will continue to make toward a resilient future.”
For more information on Calgary's flood legacy, visit calgary.ca/floods.