In what was expected to be Calgary’s worst flood in decades, several thousand people were forced from their homes as the rivers swelled Thursday.
As many as 100,000 were anticipated to be ordered out by day’s end.
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City officials pleaded with Calgarians who work in the core to avoid going to work on Friday.
Schools, roads and entire communities were shut down.
The day of evolving evacuation orders began with about 7,000 residents in the low lying areas of Mission, Elbow Park, Stanley Park, Roxboro, Rideau and Discovery Ridge Thursday afternoon as torrential rain hammered the city.
Both the Bow and Elbow rivers began to rise.
Cops, firefighters, EMS and civilian search-and-rescue workers went door-to-door to ensure Calgarians obeyed the orders.
But they eventually asked people to oversee their own evacuations and to mark an X on their front doors to show their homes were empty.
Memorial Dr. was later closed east and west of the Centre Street Bridge.
Director of Calgary Emergency Management Agency Bruce Burrell said they expect to move as many as 100,000 people by midnight.
As of 8 p.m. 7,000 to 10,000 people had been evacuated and 50 people had registered with reception centres.
“It we appears we are in for a substantial flood — like a lot of people haven’t experienced in their lifetime in Calgary,” Burrell said.
“This is about public safety and I think for the most part people understand that,” Deputy Police chief Trevor Daroux said.
He encouraged people to be ready to go when they receive a knock on their door or voluntarily evacuate to a friend or family member’s house or one of the evacuation centres.
City officials asked residents to find shelter with family or friends for at least the next 72 hours.
Those who can’t find accommodation are being housed at the city-arranged reception centres.
SAIT residences were also opening their doors to the displaced.
“We are asking Calgarians to do what they do so well, and help out others,” Daroux said.
Both the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District issued a notice just before 10 p.m., declaring all schools are closed Friday due to ongoing flood issues. That includes all Catholic schools in Airdrie, Chestermere and Cochrane.
Burrell said the volume of water headed our way could be triple that seen in the floods of 2005.
“This is going to be very significant,” he said.
Director of Water Services Dan Limacher said water flows are eight to nine times higher than is typical for a high flow day in June.
He said the Elbow River was expected to peak below the Glenmore Dam after midnight Friday morning.
Limacher said the treatment plants have not been affected.
The city has also opened its Emergency Operations Centre, where key city personnel are joined by Enmax, ATCO and Alberta Health to co-ordinate emergency response.
Mission resident Larry Rosby heard about the evacuations on the news not long before he saw police on every floor of his apartment building telling everyone to get out.
He and his mother had only time to grab a backpack and blanket before they fled to the Southland Leisure Centre in a police van.
“I didn’t have much time at all,” he said. “It was kind of a panic.”
He lives on the fifth floor of the building on 23 Ave. about three blocks from the river, but he was told he needed to leave in case the power went out or emergency crews could not reach him.
They signed into the centre and then were set up in a local hotel. He said the whole situation is a little startling.
“I am born and raised in Calgary and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
Burrell said the city has a much more “robust emergency response capacity” than in 2005.
The city has a reserve of sandbags for use in priority areas, but due to limited supply they won’t be available for public use.
City officials are reminding people to stay away from rivers as the banks may be unstable due to rising waters.
CALGARY COMMUNITIES EVACUATED AS OF 10 P.M. THURSDAY
n Discovery Ridge
n Eau Claire
n Downtown East Village
n Elbow Park
n Cliff Bungalow
n Victoria Park
n Riverbend (by midnight early Friday)
n Deer Run (by midnight)
RECEPTION CENTRES FOR RESIDENTS
n Southland Leisure Centre, 2000 Southland Dr. S.W.
n Acadia Recreation Complex, 240 90 Ave. S.E.
n Centre Street Church at 3900 2 St. N.E.