Heavy rains in southern Alberta have caused flooding, mudslides and the closure of the Trans-Canada Highway around the scenic mountain towns of Banff and Canmore.
Several communities in the mountains and foothills declared states of emergency on Thursday and ordered evacuations as rivers swelled and rising water threatened roads and bridges.
The towns of Canmore and Banff were cut off because of mudslides that closed the Trans-Canada to the east and to the west. The RCMP were warning of several mudslides on highways around Banff and in the popular recreation area of Kananaskis. Several sections or road were reported to be washed out.
“It’s a real mess,” Sgt. Patricia Neely said. “Not to make light —things are very fluid as to what is going to happen. It will take a little while before these roads are passable.”
Parks Canada spokeswoman Michelle Macullo said people caught inside the park didn’t really have many options.
“Right now, if people are in Canmore they can get to Banff. People from Banff can get to Canmore,” she said. “We just have to wait to see what the weather presents.”
Canmore spokeswoman Sally Caudill said motorists were trapped overnight Wednesday by water spilling over the Trans-Canada and had to be rescued by choppers.
“We had about 20 or so people on the highway … who got stuck,” she said. “Water covered the highway in two places, so we used a helicopter to get those folks out.”
Caudill said Cougar Creek, which runs through her community, was rising quickly Thursday. The town’s website said the creek’s banks were unstable and dangerous.
“Cougar Creek is very serious and changing very quickly,” Caudill said. “Homes that back immediately onto the creek have been evacuated starting at about 3 this morning. We are now extending that evacuation.”
Canmore wasn’t the only town with concerns. Similar threats were being felt in High River, Black Diamond and Turner Valley — communities along what is know as the Cowboy Trail in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
A mandatory evacuation was issued for several areas in High River as the Highwood River rose. The hospital was evacuated and residents of a seniors residence were told to leave.
“It’s bad,” said High River spokeswoman Joan Botkin. “The most unnerving thing, I guess, is that river forecasters are predicting — if we receive another 40 millimetres of rain — the Highwood will crest at about 1,270 cubic metres a second between noon and early evening. We encounter flooding at around 210 cubic metres.”
Barry Williamson, a councillor in Turner Valley, said that community was in danger of being cut off as well. Traffic was being restricted on the two bridges out of town as water levels crept within a metre of the their decks. The third road out is in a flood-prone area.
Two small subdivisions, home to about 50 people, were being evacuated, he said.
“Go back to 2005, that was our 100-year flood here,” Williamson said. “This is looking to be higher than that in terms of the flow of the river and height of the rivers.”
Heavy rainfall and lightning overnight Wednesday also resulted in power outages and flashing traffic signals in every area of the city of Calgary. Crews were out Thursday trying to repair the damage. The city declared a local state of emergency and said there was sandbagging in some locations as the Bow and Elbow rivers continued to rise.
Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning for the affected areas, estimating as much as 100 millimetres more rain could fall in the next two days.