It seemed impossible to imagine a way back from the brink of such devastation; the town of High River bore the brunt of the unforgiving flood waters in 2013.
Suburbs were submerged, roads became rivers and homes were gutted.
They are memories seared in the minds of those who went through it. But for so many families, it brought them closer together.
Tony Walker still recalls the anxiety of being separated from his wife and two children when the flood waters rose.
It wasn’t until almost eight hours later he was reunited with them when they were rescued by a combine. Even five years later, emotions of that day still linger.
“Every time around this time of year when it rains you think about it,” Walker said.
“I look at the little ones and hold them tighter. It still gets you every once in a while.”
What the town endured isn’t something they can erase from their history. Mayor Craig Snodgrass said progress is critical but the flood will always be a part of their identity.
“I don’t think we will ever shed that 100 per cent and I don’t think it’s healthy to dream for that day either,” Snodgrass said.
“What we went through is what we went through and it was part of the experience that we had.”
The people vowed never to be at the mercy of the Highwood River again.
“Today High River is the most well protected community from flood risk in Canada — period,” Snodgrass said. “It was a damn tough journey but we don’t want to waste any ounce of opportunity and I think we can say we haven’t.”
High River was aggressive and used $200 million in funding towards flood mitigation, bringing residents a sense of safety and relief. But many wonder if that same sense of protection can exist for Bragg Creek, a community also devasted by the flooding in 2013.
For those living in the hamlet, their vulnerability hasn’t changed in the five years since the flood. Officials with the MD of Rocky View County said they understand those feelings of frustration.
“A lot still feel at risk and there is a lot of public concern asking ‘what’s taking so long?'” said Byron Riemann, general manager of infrastructure and operations for Rocky View County.
“We are getting this done as best we can but we have to follow process. If there was a streamlined process we would have take advantage of it.”
But despite feeling exposed so close to the water’s edge, the iconic business Bragg Creek Trading Post continues to be a symbol of the longing to recover.
Barb Teghtmeyer, who owns the business and a home in the hamlet, said they returned to their former glory because the community gave them the will.
“I had no concept the community would rally behind us like they did and it’s evident today how the community supports us and our rebuilding,” Teghtmeyer said through tears.