I am writing this post partly for the sake of my readers who don’t live in Calgary, but I hope it will be of interest to those who live here as well . . .
As you may know, I live in Calgary which is a largish city (for Canada at least) located at the western end of the Canadian prairies, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It is the centre of the oil and gas industry in Canada and so it’s one of Canada’s wealthiest cities.
The residual wealth that trickles down from oil and gas has actually helped to create a thriving arts and culture scene here, which I like to refer to as the art patch as opposed to the oil patch. As you can probably guess, I identify more with the latter than the former of these patches.
Generally speaking, the people in the two patches don’t always get along so well. They (oil) seem to think that we (art) don’t work and we (art) often think that they (oil) operate without any evidence of a soul.
But, we do share the same geographical area, one of the features of which is the proximity to the mountains. Banff, for example, is just over an hour’s drive west of here.
Two rivers (in particular) originate in the mountains and flow down through Calgary, the Elbow and the Bow. The Elbow flows into the Glenmore Reservoir in the south part of town and it is from here we get our drinking water. It then flows north and east from the reservoir up through some of the finest neighbourhoods in the country and meets up with the larger Bow River just east of downtown, which is the site of Fort Calgary.
A few days ago a number of forces came together to cause these two rivers to flood in a way no one here can ever remember happening before, not like this. Those forces included the melting snow pack in the mountains along with a record rainfall in the mountains, the foothills and in Calgary. All that water has to go somewhere and it all went into the two rivers which soon flooded their respective banks, leaving large areas of the city underwater, causing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.
Although I live nowhere near either river, people in the block east of me were evacuated yesterday (Friday) not so much because of the water but because there were problems with the power grid and so the power was lost for a number of apartment buildings downtown, hence the evacuations.
Obviously, the situation wasn’t as dire here as for people living along the rivers. Some of them lost everything, and all of them have a horrible mess to return home to.
All of which brings me to my point about the amazing spirit of generosity that flowed through our city as a result of this situation.
I first became aware of it on Thursday evening when the shit really hit the fan and we all began to realize how serious the situation was becoming.
I was following events as they unfolded on Facebook. The updates on there turned out to be more comprehensive and current than anything I could find on television. I watched in disbelief as news spread of neighbourhood after neighbourhood being evacuated. Some of them were only a few blocks from my apartment, and all of them were places where friends of mine live.
What followed was truly extraordinary. Friends on Facebook, those on higher and drier ground, began offering a place to stay for those who were facing evacuation. I wish I had counted how many offers I saw on Thursday night and Friday, honestly it was in the hundreds.
Not only that . . . people were offering to drive and pick up the evacuees. And not only that! Many were sweetening the pot with offers of food, wine, beer, you name it! People with yards were even billing themselves as “animal friendly” for those with pets.
This generosity was so spontaneous and overwhelming that in a few cases I seriously contemplated pretending I’d been evacuated just to have a little free vacation at someone else’s house. Of course, getting busted on something like that is something you would never live down so I rode the storm out on my own. I even offered a room at my place for anyone who needed it.
After all, I had beer and vodka, coffee and smokes, and a little water. I knew I’d be OK.
And in the end, you know, it didn’t matter much which of the patches you came from or which side of the river you lived on, the people of this fine city came together in a truly inspirational expression of community that for some of us – certainly for me – reminded us why we live here in the first place.
Reminding us, ultimately, that’s there no place else in the world where we would rather live.
The rains have subsided but the rivers are still high. These photos of the Bow River were taken today (Saturday).
There’s a hell of a mess left to clean up, but we’ll get through it, and maybe even be a little richer of a community for it.
In closing, a little number from one of my favourite Calgary-based musicians, Tim Williams, who had a health scare during the flood and had everyone worried but it looks like he’s going to be fine. This is Harrison Lake in BC you’re seeing in this vid, the flooding’s not that bad here . . . not yet . . .
Thanks for reading!