Record flooding in southern Alberta, Canada has caused extensive damage and claimed four lives. The flood event follows a period of prolonged and excessive rainfall in the area. More than 100,000 residents were evacuated due to the dangerous flood conditions, with 75,000 of those residents from the City of Calgary. Nearly 1,000 residents had to be rescued by boat or air from surrounding communities. Widespread flood damage and power outages have affected a great portion of southern Alberta. As flood waters recede, many residents of Calgary have been able to return home but still face power and gas disruption. A state of emergency remains in effect. Energy interests in Alberta have been disrupted. The Bank of Montreal estimates economic losses on the order of CAD 3-5 Billion.
A complex and slow-moving frontal system brought excessive rainfall to southern Alberta, the foothills, and the adjacent mountains between June 19-22. The circulation of the frontal system caused a significant moisture feed into the area, with equally aggressive mechanics to convert this moisture to rainfall. This slow-moving feature brought rainfall amounts well in excess of 50 mm over most of southern Alberta. Local rainfall amounts exceeding 100 mm were found over a very broad area over and adjacent to the Alberta foothills and mountains, with local amounts exceeding 300 mm southwest of Calgary. The excessive rainfall combined with late snowmelt (110 mm in some areas) to amplify flood severity. The ground in many areas is still frozen below 50 cm, and already saturated, preventing water absorption and compounding the problem further still. The Bow and Elbow river basins were among the most severely affected watersheds. More rainfall is expected over the next three days, with rainfall amounts of 10-15 mm or less.
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Calgary experienced widespread flooding with a surge of water levels from the Bow and Elbow rivers, significantly damaging both residential and commercial structures and causing one fatality. Downtown Calgary was severely impacted. Officials estimate it may take days, if not weeks, for power to be restored to parts of the downtown area. As water levels recede in Calgary, about 65,000 evacuees have returned home amid concerns of electricity and gas disruption, and some in the Inglewood area await their return home. Local transit has restored about 80 percent of its service. A state of emergency remains in effect.
Southwest of Calgary, the town of High River was one of the worst-affected areas. More than 1,000 residents were rescued by boat or air, and officials reported damage to be substantial and extensive. 13,000 evacuees from the area still await their return home. Three victims were found in the Highwood River that runs through the town.
To the east, the city of Medicine Hat was also impacted. While the flooding in Medicine Hat was less severe than initially feared, more than 1,000 homes and several prominent civic buildings were believed to have water damage.
Calgary is home to the corporate offices of most of the energy interests in Alberta. Suncor Energy Inc. has reduced output from its Fort McMurray operations due to a precautionary shutdown of the Enbridge pipeline system. The Canadian Pacific Railway system suffered disruption but has since reopened the main line west of Calgary after restoration. The Trans-Canada highway remains partially closed for some locations including Canmore, Alberta.
The Calgary Stampede, an annual event bringing significant revenue to the area, is expected to proceed.
The Alberta government has approved CAD 1 Billion for the first phase of emergency recovery and reconstruction funding for southern Alberta residents. Pre-loaded debit cards will be given to those who have been evacuated, with up to CAD 1,250 per adult and CAD 500 per child for those that qualify.
While officials say it is too early to put a damage estimate on the floods, it is believed that losses will exceed the 2005 Calgary flooding event, which caused nearly CAD 400 Million in damage. The Bank of Montreal issued a statement Monday morning that total economic losses from the floods may be in the range of CAD 3-5 Billion.
Flood Insurance in Canada
Most homeowners insurance policies in Canada do not cover flood. The Insurance Bureau of Canada states that overland flooding (water that comes in through doors and windows) is not covered. Vehicles with comprehensive coverage will be covered.
Sources: Agence France Presse, Reuters, BBC News, CNN, CBC, Bloomberg, The Calgary Herald
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