June 21, 2013 4:30 pm
Updated: June 22, 2013 12:14 pm

Red Deer under local state of emergency; evacuation orders lifted

EDMONTON – Residents from six homes that were evacuated in Red Deer Friday morning have been allowed to return home. However, the city says they may be served another evacuation notice if water levels on the Red Deer River change.

“The situation is constantly changing, and we want to give these residents an opportunity to sandbag their properties in case of flooding,” said City Manager Craig Curtis. “At this time, those residents could be given a further one-hour notice of evacuation should the situation change.”

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The impacted homes are located on 40th Avenue, adjacent to the Mckenzie Trail Recreation Area.

“Two police cars came here about 7:30 and said we should get out of here by 10:00,” area resident Harry Pohl said. “It was sure good news when I heard we could come back.”

When Pohl returned home, he was overwhelmed by what he saw; about 40 workers from Calfrac Well Services had come together to help sandbag the affected homes.

“It’s just wonderful. I’ve never seen anything like this, this good,” said Pohl

“You’ve got to feel for the people. It’s a tough thing to go through. They’re going through a lot right now,” said Jeff Russill, who wanted to help any way he could.

“We actually phoned the city first thing this morning and said we have some men here that are eager and anxious to help out,” he explained. “Hopefully it’s not needed. Hopefully it doesn’t get to this level, but if it does it’s definitely a good feeling to have helped out.”

“It’s heart-warming to hear the number of residents who offered to volunteer, or help out however they could,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling. “The volunteering spirit in the community was definitely on show during this event.”

The city expected peak flows to occur on the Red Deer River between 4:00 and 6:00 Friday afternoon. However, water levels were lower than initially projected.

“Our flows aren’t coming to the river near as high as first expected,” explained Red Deer Deputy Fire Chief Bart Rowland. “The (Dickson) Dam has done an excellent job in being able to control their flows and try and do their proactive steps of increasing their flows as much as they can, so they have capacity in the dam.”

“We are still taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety of all citizens should the situation change,” Curtis added.

A provincial reception centre will also be set up in Red Deer, in an effort to accommodate approximately 500 people from other areas of the province impacted by flooding.

“This reception centre is being established at the Province of Alberta’s request with more information to come on when and where those designated people can go in Red Deer,” said Curtis.

A local state of emergency was declared in the City of Red Deer at 8:00 p.m. Thursday night.

The emergency was declared after a flood warning was issued by the city, when Alberta Environment said it was releasing a significant amount of water from the Dickson Dam. The city continues to receive updates from Alberta Environment and the Dickson Dam about the impact and timing of potential flooding.

With the current flood risk, some special events scheduled for this weekend have been cancelled, including Bark at the Bend, the Foster Family BBQ, Summer Sundays in the Park at Bower Ponds and the Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes at Heritage Ranch.

The Lions Campground was also evacuated Thursday night. Parks, trails and outdoor spaces directly adjacent to the Red Deer River were closed as water levels rose.

“We have declared a state of local emergency and we are enacting our emergency plans in preparation for any potential flooding that occurs,” Curtis said Thursday night. “Based on what we know right now, river levels could be comparable to those in 2005, which did result in some flooding.”

Red Deer’s water treatment plant, waste water treatment plant and Electric Light and Power substation, and control buildings located in impacted areas will also be sandbagged in preparation for potential flooding.

In high stream flow and flood conditions, the river bank can become extremely unstable. Residents are being reminded to stay off the Red Deer River and away from river banks until further notice.

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The city says crews will remain onsite at barricaded parks and trails, and will continue to monitor water levels on the Red Deer River overnight. Water from the Dickson Dam has been released at a steady rate for the last six hours.

In the event of flooding, city officials suggest residents take the following precautions:

• Ensure your basement faucets, outside gas valve and electricity are shut off.
• If the area around the fuse box or circuit breaker is wet, stand on a dry board and shut off the power with a dry wooden stick.
• Check your basement sump pumps periodically for water and make sure the pumps are working.
• Stay away from streamsides and warn children of the dangers of fast-moving water.
• Avoid using rivers and streams in the Red Deer area for recreational purposes. Cyclists and pedestrians should beware of water covered roads and pathways and should not attempt to travel on or cross a flooded roadway.

For up to date information, visit the City of Red Deer’s website or follow the City of Red Deer on Twitter. The Red Deer emergency hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at 403-342-8132.

© Shaw Media, 2013

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