December 6, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Sheldon Kennedy is feeling grateful this week for all those chores he had to do as a kid on the family farm near Elkhorn.
Farmhand know-how, gained through hard work, has come in handy for Kennedy, whose Calgary home was hammered over the weekend by floodwater that devastated parts of Calgary and southern Alberta.
Kennedy, the former NHL and Manitoba Moose player, lost everything in his basement and garage but has gained a new family of neighbours.
"We live right on the Elbow River and right across from the Stampede grounds, so we got hit hard. There's many people that got hit as hard or harder than us," said Kennedy, 44, who lives in a townhouse in a complex in the affluent Erlton area of Calgary.
"Being a Manitoban, we're used to these floods. You just help out where you can," said Kennedy, who was able to get back into his house Sunday and has been cleaning up ever since.
"The farmer comes out in you at times like this," he said. "You know how to hook up a hose and run a pump and stuff like that. Some people don't ever look at that stuff and it's not their fault, but it's stuff that they've never had to do, ever. So they don't even know where to start."
He said he brought out his sludge pump and a trash pump (which pumps large amounts of water containing mud and debris such as leaves and twigs) and went to work.
"That cleans out everybody's septics and their sump pumps, so I think I did about 30 of them yesterday, all in our unit," he said. "Me and another guy were running around. He had the hoses, I had the pumps and the Shop-Vac and we were just cleaning out what we could and getting things going."
Residents have been tearing out drywall, throwing away furniture, scraping out silt, disinfecting and trying to dry out what they can.
"The volunteers -- they asked for 700, I think they got 7,000, so there's been lots of people helping out," he said. "I can't believe how fast the city is working. Our street was just piles and piles of stuff and it's gone. The city workers and volunteers have been through here and on to the next neighbourhood."
He said he's lived in the townhouse complex less than a year.
"It's one way to meet your neighbours and get to know them better," Kennedy said. "It's a terrible incident, but Calgary's pulled together."
Also sustaining flood damage was Kennedy's farm on the Highwood River, near the town of High River, which has been devastated by floodwater. He lost an irrigation pumphouse there and his shops. There is major damage to the land, but the house on the property was safe on higher ground.
On Thursday, when the water started rising, Kennedy was at the new Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre giving Hockey Canada representatives a tour. The water was already very high near his home, so he stayed at his girlfriend's home in another area of Calgary. It was three days before he could get back into his home.
"It was weird. The water was in the basement, but it was running down the street so fast it was pushing cars," he said. "It wasn't just a fill-up-a-house sort of flood. It was a really thrashing, heavy-flowing, hard flood. Everything in the basement was just tossed around. Things from the back room were in the front room. It was violent."
Kennedy said he lost some hockey memorabilia and "quite a few pictures."
"But it's just stuff. Some people have died. In relative terms, I feel pretty lucky."
The latest on the flood situation in Alberta
Days before the Canada Day long weekend, the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary has reopened to public traffic for the first time since flooding forced its closure last Thursday.
Alberta Transportation says one lane of the four-lane highway is open in each direction. Speed limits have been reduced to 60 kilometres an hour.
The Alberta government says any return by residents to High River, the town hardest hit by flooding, is still days away.
Crews are still working to oversee the town's recovery, to restore basic services, to rid the community of contaminated standing water and to make things safe, Rick Fraser, the government member appointed, said Wednesday,
Fraser said pre-loaded debit cards to help evacuees with expenses would go to High River residents first, starting today. Premier Alison Redford announced the cards earlier in the week as part of an initial $1 billion to kick-start recovery. Adults who have had to leave their homes for seven days or more are to get $1,250 each and children are eligible for $500.
Flooding in southern Alberta has forced the largest beef plant in Canada to stop slaughtering cattle. Cargill Ltd.'s facility outside High River depends on large volumes of clean water from the town's treatment plant, which hasn't been working since floods heavily damaged the community.
TD Bank says Alberta's economy will likely be quick to rebound, although it says unpredictable factors could affect the recovery. The bank's economic unit estimates between $500 million and $1.5 billion will be subtracted from Alberta's output this month but predicts that shortfall will be made up in July.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he intends to roll up his sleeves and help with the cleanup.
Calgary Stampede officials have vowed the famed rodeo will start as scheduled July 5.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2013 A8