Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'I Had No Spirit Left:' Albertans Reflect on the Flood of Floods One Year Later

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'I Had No Spirit Left:' Albertans Reflect on the Flood of Floods One Year Later

Article excerpt

Alberta's flood of floods one year later

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CALGARY - It has been one year since rain pounded the foothills of the southern Alberta Rockies -- heavy, relentless rain more typical of a tropical storm than a late-spring shower. In Canmore, more than 200 millimetres fell in 2 1/2 days, 10 times the amount of a typical rainfall that time of year.

A torrent of floodwater from the headwaters of the Bow and Elbow rivers swept through streets and homes in such communities as Exshaw, Bragg Creek, High River and eventually through the heart of downtown Calgary and on to Medicine Hat.

As many as 100,000 people scrabbled for higher ground any way they could -- in canoes and boats, in the backs of combines or in the scoop of a front-end loader. Some swam for their lives.

In the aftermath, there was hopelessness and despair. In the weeks that followed, there was resilience and determination. There's still anger and there's still fear, but much has been rebuilt. Here are the stories of four people who survived Alberta's flood of floods, mopped things up and carried on:

Marion and Paul Kutzer, semi-retired, Canmore, Alta.

Marion and Paul Kutzer will always remember June 20, 2013.

It was the day they finally paid off the mortgage on their spacious home with a vivid view of the Rocky Mountains along Cougar Creek in the mountaineer's mecca of Canmore.

It was also the day that Cougar Creek, which often flows at little more than a trickle, roared over its rocky banks, cut a swath through their home of 18 years and forced them to flee to safety.

Canmore was the first community to feel the full wrath of the extensive flooding that caused billions of dollars of damage throughout southern Alberta.

Sitting on their second-floor balcony, the sound of heavy equipment roaring in the creekbed below as flood prevention work carries on, the couple's memories are fresh.

"When it first happened I was totally gutted. I had no spirit left and now I'm going to get emotional again," said Marion, 63, brushing away tears.

"The people that support you and the family that supports you -- that's what gets you through it. It's so crazy that after a year it just comes rushing back all at once."

The Kutzer house was one of more than 40 homes severely damaged in Canmore.

The water cut a path through the back of the house and swept away furniture and belongings. It ate away the ground beneath the foundation. It took months before the Kutzers even knew if their home could be salvaged. They couldn't go back for seven months.

"I think it probably took us a week to kind of get over the shock of the massive damage. Then came the next phase -- the disaster relief -- and that to me put more tension and frustration and more stress on me than the house," said Paul, who, at 72, is semi-retired.

The province's disaster recovery program covers the cost of repairing uninsurable property damage. As of early June nearly 10,500 people had applied and $71 million had been paid out.

But the couple is critical of the Alberta government's handling of flood relief.

Paul said the process is "shrouded in secrecy" and the money has been slow to come. He estimates the couple is still waiting for up to $45,000 in cash from the disaster relief program.

He has mixed feelings about how the flood coincided with paying off the mortgage. The disaster recovery program only covered base level finishings.

"It's kind of ironic. Now because of the Alberta system, we're not going to be reimbursed for all of the damages, and we're back in the hole again," he said.

"We bottomed out, that's for sure. We're going to have to go into debt again."

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Barb Teghtmeyer, operator, Bragg Creek Trading Post, Bragg Creek, Alta.

Barb Teghtmeyer remembers working in her family's Bragg Creek Trading Post as a young girl.

The historic building began as a fur-trading venue in 1925 and her father bought it in 1940. …

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