I recently attended some national meetings of various homebuilder associations from across Canada in Calgary before and during the flood.
I went out a day early to join some friends for a round of golf at Stewart Creek in Canmore. It's a beautiful area -- tree-lined with a small creek running through the course, houses and condos nearby.
Not anymore. Stewart Creek became a raging river which wiped out the trees, the course, many of the houses and the highway connecting Canmore with the rest of the area. Fortunately, I missed the devastation by 24 hours. Those that live and work there will spend months trying to rebuild what they lost.
Our meetings were in downtown Calgary, across from the tower and about two blocks from city hall. Thursday morning, we were told we might have to alter our schedule somewhat, but that everything would be OK. By Thursday evening, it was obvious this was a more serious situation, especially when we began seeing footage from Canmore. We were told that anyone who didn't have to be downtown on Friday probably shouldn't be there.
I'm from Manitoba, I've seen floods. They happen all the time here, but not like this.
By 8 a.m. Friday the power was out at the hotel. Emergency vehicles were abundant in the area. By 10 a.m. we were told all hotels were being evacuated within the next two hours and only one bridge out of town was still open. City hall, the zoo and numerous parkades, underpasses and other buildings were all under water.
I managed to get out of downtown but couldn't get another hotel room elsewhere or a flight out of town for another 24 hours. During that period of circuitous cab rides, I saw some of the widespread effects of the flood on the city of Calgary. More than 100,000 residents had to leave their homes, every downtown hotel was emptied, businesses were left vacant and major thoroughfares, bridges and other exit routes were closed. Water was everywhere.
I just had to deal with a minor inconvenience -- 24 to 36 hours of wondering where I was going to stay. Tens of thousands of Alberta residents are wondering what is left of their homes and if and when they will be able to return and start the restoration process.
Food, clothing and shelter are three basic necessities. Let us never take the importance of shelter for granted.
Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba Home Builders' Association.