Flood lessons can’t be forgotten
Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014 12:23 pm
Foothills communities have come a long way since the devastating flood of June 20, 2013 and it’s a testament to the resiliency and hard work of individual residents, businesses, municipalities and the provincial government.
The scale of the damage left behind was unprecedented in Alberta’s history and it required an equally extraordinary effort to recover. So much has been accomplished in the last year in the communities that were hit. Existing flood berms have been repaired and beefed up, new flood protections have been completed and numerous erosion control projects have been done.
A lot of work was done to prepare for this year’s flood season, and most of it has been done by the time this week’s rainfall put the Highwood River on a high stream flow advisory. However, the work isn’t nearly finished.
The Province needs to continue its commitment to foothills communities and complete flood berms and erosion control projects that are critical to protecting homes and businesses. The Province also needs to continue working on a flood diversion for High River that will protect the town once and for all, giving its residents the peace of mind they need to know their community is safe.
Albertans also need to remember some of the lessons that came out of this flood, key among them is not to build near water.
Another key lesson is the importance of an early warning system. Many in High River didn’t leave until the water was lapping on their front steps because there was no warning, this despite raging waters on the Highwood River to the west in Longview early in the morning on June 20. Foothills communities have since taken steps to update their emergency alert systems.
For Albertans, last year’s floods also illustrated the importance of being prepared for emergencies.
Finally, as the heavy machinery working across the foothills finally winds down its work, the provincial government needs to do a through review of the flood and its response. It needs to look at all aspects of the flood and what happened in the days, weeks and months afterwards. Among other things, this review needs to include looking at the RCMP gun seizure, the effectiveness of the Disaster Relief Program and the work completed over the last year.
A review will be essential to ensure Alberta is prepared when disaster strikes again.