The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

'It's still not home:' residents of High River still out one year after flood

  • Print

HIGH RIVER, Alta. - Fred Plotnikoff and his girlfriend Bert Ager's home has been a tiny room in a trailer for the last 10 months.

The seniors have been living in the temporary community of Saddlebrook, just north of High River, which was set up by the Alberta government last summer to provide shelter for about 1,200 after the Highwood River poured into town and damaged many homes beyond repair.

Saddlebrook consists of a neighbourhood of long construction trailers grouped together on a 40-hectare site.

It has laundry facilities, a recreation centre and a kitchen that feeds the people who still call it home. A colourful playground still attracts a handful of children.

The makeshift community's population has dwindled to about 150 as the one-year anniversary of the flood approaches.

Plotnikoff and Ager are scheduled to move into a condo in High River on July 1.

"It was great to have a place to live that was dry. It's better than being under the damn bridge you know," says Plotnikoff, 70. "We're getting tired of it. We want to have our own place ... We've been OK, but it's not home."

"It kept us positive," adds Ager, who is 76. "We knew there was something better coming."

It's not just the residents of Saddlebrook who still aren't home after last June's flooding. A number of businesses in downtown High River remain dark.

The historic Wales Theatre, which first opened its doors in 1927, still hasn't reopened. It was only recently that "Hangover 3" was removed from the marquee — long past its movie house playing days. The movie was released on DVD last October.

"The water was right below the screen," says owner Syed Kidwai, pointing to the front of the theatre, which is in the middle of a major reconstruction. All the seats on the main floor have been removed. Rows upon rows of new seats are still covered in plastic.

"My wife and I had been considering retirement," Kidwai says. "It's been a very hard road. I must have aged five years in the past 12 months and we have to understand that it's not just myself — we are looking at the lives of about 12,000 people who were also affected."

Kidwai equates what he is going through to a cancer scare he had in 2008.

"First you are very upset and you say, 'Why me?' Then it's the four levels of acceptance. You get mad, then you accept it and say I'm better than a lot of other people."

High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass says getting people back into their homes and businesses has been the town's No. 1 priority.

But he says there's also a need to let residents know that there are protections in place to prevent a repeat of 2013.

Riverbanks have been improved to prevent erosion. The neighbourhood of Wallaceville, on a natural chokepoint in the Highwood, is to be bulldozed and the site returned to its original state. The river bottom has been scraped and an old rail bridge has been removed to improve flow.

In the longer term, there are plans for a channel to divert water around the community.

"I wouldn't call it doom and gloom but the town is wounded. People have that edge of nervousness to them," Snodgrass said.

"People have a very hard time getting it out of their head that last year isn't normal and last year isn't going to happen every time because it affected everybody on a personal level."

Snodgrass doesn't see High River returning to the way it was.

"This is an opportunity to take this town up about five levels," he says.

"You can see the light at the end of the odd tunnel here as to how this town's going to look and that's pretty exciting."

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Key of Bart - Take It Easy

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A young goose   reaches for long strands of grass Friday night near McGillvary Blvd-See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 19 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Winnipeg control growth to deal with climate change?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google