Alberta Flooding – Four Hours to Evacuate at the Cabin

June 20, 2013: The mighty Bow River is flooding. The Cabin and Golf Resort at Hidden Valley on the Siksika Reserve  is in danger of being inundated.

We left the cabin at Hidden Valley at about 11:30 PM (June 20) and were safely home several hours later. We had loaded our little travel trailer with as much stuff from the cabin as we had time to pack in the 4 or so hours we had to evacuate. The rest of the stuff – we either moved  to the loft, or simply put up onto the top of the cabinets in the kitchen.

No time to think much about what to haul away and what to leave. No time to take any last pictures. No time to say good-bye to anyone. Just get loaded up and out of there so that we didn’t block the route of all the other trucks and trailers that were trying to load and get out. The evacuation siren was going continuously. Unsettling.

We saw many people with big utility trailers loading up furniture and appliances. For them, these places were not just a summer cabin, they were where they lived all summer. For  a few, including some of the members of the Siksika Nation, it was their full time home. For the Siksika Nation, it was a source of revenue and employment.

The Car Guy’s sister and her husband hauled as much stuff as they could onto high ground on the other side of the river. In the morning we will head out to where they are and help them move their travel trailer, cargo trailer and motorcycles – someplace. The cabin was to be their home for six months of the year – they just recently sold their home in Calgary.

The lady we had bought the cabin from came over and asked if she could see the cabin for one last time. They had rebuilt the cabin after the flood in 2005, and she was obviously very upset that it was going to flood one last time. “This sunroom,” she said. “I had this built with the inheritance I got when a family member died. Did you enjoy using it?”

I replied, yes, very much – I’ll miss it a lot. (She and her husband had driven down from Edmonton to help the people next door evacuate.)

We didn’t even have time to sandbag as we did in 2011. There didn’t seem to be any point. The river is expected to be that much higher than previously. (See The Angry River in 2011.)

On the way home last night, we stopped in Strathmore for gas and to catch our breath. I asked The Car Guy if he had remembered to pack The Weather Stone. I had put it on the picnic table. He said yes,  he had packed it. Odd what things are the most important when you believe you are going to lose everything that is left behind.

This will be the end of the Hidden Valley Resort, I expect. This was to be our last summer there, then we would pack up what we could and move out.  I guess the River will move us out instead.

Of course, we are just 300 of the families that are affected. There are many more people here in Siksika Nation who have also had to evacuate, and of course there are all the other families upstream who have already had their homes flooded or destroyed.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada leaves us with this one last thought: “It’s important to take preventative action against flooding because damage caused by overland flooding is not covered by home insurance policies anywhere in Canada.”  (Short of not living within miles of a stream or river, there isn’t much preventative action you can take that stops water from coming in where you don’t want it – or so it seems to me.)

June 21, morning: We drove back out to the cabin and were told we had about 20 minutes to get anything else we wanted. The gas company came around and turned off all the gas. We quickly threw our last treasures into the back of the truck and left. The bridge was packed with members of the Siksika Nation who had come to watch the raging waters.

We drove to the top of the hill where many of the cabin owners and members of the Siksika Nation had assembled in the parking lot of the beautiful Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park.  The Park’s lookout platform gave us an unobstructed view of the Bow River and Hidden Valley. We stood and talked for several hours as we watched the river rise. The immense power of water – it was terrifying and mesmerizing. We reluctantly headed for home before the water spilled over the berm.

June 21, 7:45 PM: The berm has been breached (near the west end, I believe). The water has flowed over the berm in many other places including the gate by the bridge. The only remaining question is, what will be the high water mark this time?

I think most cabin owners can show you a high water mark on a window or a wall of their cabin. It is like a badge of honour. “The water came up to here in 1995, and here in 2005. But we rebuilt.” The high water mark of 2013. There will be one on each and every cabin that survives, but there will not likely be a third round of rebuilding.

June 21, 9:30 PM: The Car Guy’s sister, still camped up on the hill overlooking Hidden Valley writes: ” The river, the lake, the first hole and the beach have merged. But the red truck on the 1st fairway looks like it is still dry! And a small river is flowing from back water/mechanical gate into the Bow. We are the river now! If you are coming tomorrow to view from the Historical Park, bring DEET! Lots of it!”