For two days, Kurt and Brittany Wikel had no idea what had happened to their home. The Calgary couple was evacuated on June 20, as floodwaters inundated southern Alberta and the providence’s largest city.
The June floods forced about 75,000 people from their homes in Calgary and thousands more in the towns that line the rivers of southern Alberta. According to Canadian media, the worst floods in the province’s history killed four people and could cost Calgary more than $1 billion. Alberta Premier Alison Redford called the event “completely unprecedented.”
“It’s been shocking to see the unbelievable destruction and painful impact of these floods,” she said on June 23. “We will live with this forever.”
Downtown Calgary flooded when the Bow and Elbow rivers breached their banks on June 21. The Scotiabank Saddledome, the city’s largest venue, was also flooded and at one point water covered 14 rows of seating. The flooding was the result of a slow-moving weather system that drenched the already saturated region.
Kurt was walking home from his job in downtown Calgary and noticed that the Elbow River was rising on the evening of June 20. That evening the police ordered an evacuation of the neighborhoods along the river.
“We had five minutes to leave and it was mandatory,” he said.
Kurt and Brittany, who are originally from Montana, stayed at a friend’s house over the weekend, but they had no idea what had happened to their home. Images on the news showed a downtown completely submerged and houses underwater.
Two days later, they couldn’t wait any longer and asked a friend who lived nearby but was not evacuated to inspect their house. He walked over and took a photo.
“Our home, miraculously, was unscathed,” Kurt said. “We were very fortunate, but some people lost everything.”
When Kurt and Brittany returned home four days later, they found a city agonizing in the aftermath of the storm. Kurt said city officials put restrictions on how much water and electricity people could use. Many of the city’s primary roads had been closed and those that were open were thick with traffic.
Kurt and his wife had planned a trip to the Flathead Valley before the flood and, a few days after returning home, they headed south for the states, hoping to avoid the “gridlock.” They were not alone and Kurt said many people from Alberta came to the Flathead with the same idea.
It’s a temporary break from the disaster back home, something Kurt says is still hard to believe.
“It’s tragic. It’s hard to put into words because Calgary is such a busy and vibrant city,” he said. “It’s surreal.”
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.