As record flood waters receded in parts of southern Alberta, Canada, residents in another section of the province braced for the wrath the raging waters would bring.
Some 65,000 residents got the all-clear to return home in Calgary, although the situation was far from settled in the inundated city.
“We are certainly still in a state of emergency, and as always our number one priority is people’s safety,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said at a news conference carried Sunday by CNN affiliate CTV. “Stay away from the rivers … the riverbank could wash away from under you in an instant … it may look safe, it is not safe.”
While 90% of the city’s hard-hit downtown area is expected to be open by Tuesday, some pockets of the city center may take weeks to return to normal, he said.
“The city of Calgary took a pretty hard hit, but we’re a resilient city,” said Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency. “We want to recover as quickly as possible, we want to get people into their homes and businesses as quickly as possible, we want to restore the city as quickly as possible.”
While conditions were improving in Calgary, the city of Medicine Hat cast a wary eye on the South Saskatchewan River, which authorities predicted would reach its peak Monday morning and flood at record levels. City Hall was lined with sandbags.
Officials had told residents they should plan for the Trans-Canada Highway bridge to close Sunday night, but it remained open, allowing critical public access between the northern and southern sections of the city.
Nearly 10,000 people have been evacuated in Medicine Hat, and almost everyone has complied with evacuation orders, said the city’s mayor, Norm Boucher. City spokeswoman Brandy Calvert said officials expect the flood to eclipse one that took place in 1995, the city’s biggest on record.
So far, water treatment and power plants in Medicine Hat are protected. The drinking water is safe.
“We don’t want to anticipate the worst, but we’re going to be prepared for the worst,” Alberta Premier Alison Redford said. “We know that, from what we’ve seen everywhere else, that this is more exceptional than we’ve ever seen in Alberta before, so we’re presuming that that’s probably the circumstance that we’re looking at (in Medicine Hat) as well.”
The extensive flooding that has deluged towns and threatened southern Alberta communities has killed at least three people, officials said. The victims were all found in the Highwood River, about 40 miles south of Calgary.