Alberta community still busy rebuilding since 2013 flood

High River Alberta
Things in High River, Alberta are finally returning to normal more than two years since the 2013 floods devastated the town. . Jill Croteau / Global News

HIGH RIVER, Alta. – It’s been a busy three years for one of the southern Alberta communities hardest hit by extensive flooding three years ago.

The mayor of High River south of Calgary says the town has come back stronger than ever, even though it hasn’t been easy.

Craig Snodgrass said the first priority was to protect the town by building new berms and dykes on the Highwood River to handle a flood 50 per cent larger than in 2013.

READ MORE: After the Flood Part 1 – High River family still homeless

The river flooded much of the community and turned downtown streets to raging rivers; it took weeks to pump water from one neighbourhood called the Hamptons.

All 13,000 residents of the town had to leave and scores had to be rescued from rooftops as water rose over the tops of cars.

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Snodgrass said the downtown area has seen some big changes that have made the town more walkable and more appealing to businesses.

READ MORE: After the Flood Part II – ‘He had leukemia that went very, very bad’

The province said the floods were the worst in Alberta’s history. More than 125,000 people were forced to flee and more than 30 communities were affected.

Some residents are still dealing with flood-related issues.

“There’s a lot of construction that we’re finishing up this year, a new provincial building being built with 100 and something employees in downtown High River,” Snodgrass explained. “That just feeds all the retail and the restaurants and the service industries.”

READ MORE: After the Flood Part III – Mental health program’s future uncertain

Cities and towns stretching from the Rocky Mountains in the province’s west all the way east to Medicine Hat were damaged.

High River had 350 millimetres of water over a two-day period.

Insurable losses were pegged at more than $5 billion.

The province said it has provided more than $145 million in Disaster Recovery Program funding and an additional $350 million towards High River’s long-term municipal projects.

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“As someone who has lived through both flooding and forest fires in my hometown of Slave Lake, I know how difficult and emotionally challenging a disaster is,” Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said.

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“It’s one reason why I’m so committed to learning lessons from the 2013 flood in southern Alberta, and am committed to continuing to reform the program to better support Albertans in the future.”

The town was to hold a service Monday night to acknowledge the change the flood has brought to the community.