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HomeTechnology & ScienceAfter the flood: Alberta communities assessing damage as water levels recede

After the flood: Alberta communities assessing damage as water levels recede

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West-central Alberta communities are assessing damage and making repairs as flood waters recede.

In the town of Edson, 100 kilometres west of Edmonton, a state of local emergency ended Monday after a tumultuous two weeks of fire and flood.

Flooding prompted the emergency declaration on June 19, just days after town residents had been given the green light to go home after six days under wildfire evacuation orders.

Mayor Kevin Zahara said Monday that the community got more than 135 millimetres of rain, and about 60 homes and businesses in the community have flooded basements.

Parts of Edson’s 6th Avenue, which connects the east and west ends of town and is the main access route for the hospital, are also closed because of flood damage.

“We’re going to have to repair some roadways and underground infrastructure as well. We also have been actively looking at upgrading some of our storm sewers and sewer lines,” Zahara said.

“There’s quite a large expense we’re going to be facing as a municipality.”

Zahara said engineers are still assessing the extent of repairs that will be needed, and the town doesn’t yet have an estimate of the cost to fix the damage.

Yellowhead County resident Roxie Orge says she was surprised to find a hot tub washed up after flooding in west-central Alberta in late June 2023. (Submitted by Roxie Orge)

Some communities in the surrounding Yellowhead County were also affected by floods — at one point people who live in Lower Robb were ordered to leave their homes as rivers started to breach their banks, and a shelter-in-place order was issued for some residents of the hamlet of Peers after a bridge was damaged.

The order was cancelled on Friday, but there’s a speed and weight limit in effect on the bridge until it can be re-assessed this week.

‘You’re not going to believe this — we have a hot tub’

Yellowhead County resident Roxie Orge told CBC on Monday that when she was checking on the aftermath of the flood around her own property, she stumbled upon a mystery.

She and her husband watched flooding rise near their property last week, but the water didn’t reach the house or garage.

“On Wednesday, when the river was still high, from the road you could see that there was a blue object on our property, quite a ways in the bush, washed up with the debris,” she said, adding she thought it might be a kayak.

When they talk a walk later, checking on all the washouts and trees that had been swept away, they found something else.

“My husband basically said, ‘You’re not going to believe this. We have a hot tub.'”

She snapped a photo of the round, barrel-style cedar hot tub with a blue liner, which is what she had mistaken for a kayak.

Orge said she’s trying to figure out who it might belong to, and how far it travelled — where it’s been deposited in the bush, there probably isn’t any way to get it out besides taking it apart.

But she said she’s not surprised the flooding moved something so large.

“The Edson River, which is quite a smaller river, it was just rushing and rapids. It really was insane.”

Whitecourt cleaning up

Rising water levels also triggered a state of local emergency last week in Whitecourt, about 100 kilometres northeast of Edson, with evacuation orders for some riverfront properties.

Whitecourt Mayor Tom Pickard said Monday the alerts and orders have now been lifted. Some access roads around the town washed out, but he said there wasn’t serious damage to city infrastructure.

But residents have been working to clean up the aftermath of flooding in the town’s Festival Park and the Whitecourt Golf and Country Club, which both sit along the Athabasca River.

“When the river was flooding in, and then when it recedes, it leaves a real fine silt,” Pickard said.

“The entire golf course was flooded, so they have a lot of silt still on the course. They’ve a crew of volunteers working now, plus their staff, to clean that off.”

Parts of Festival Park are still closed, but Pickard said Canada Day activities will be able to go ahead there as planned this weekend.

“We monitor the water levels upstream and rainfall. For now, we feel that the recent significant event is over, and we’ll prepare for the next one.”

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