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Calgarians clean up after thunderstorm causes flash flooding, power outages

Calgary in clean-up mode after storm causes flash flooding
Calgarians were forced to clean up in the aftermath of a storm that caused flash flooding across the city. Adam MacVicar reports.

Calgarians were left cleaning up after a massive rainstorm rolled through the city on Thursday evening, flooding streets and knocking out power to thousands of homes.

Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Calgary at around 8 p.m. and the downpour began shortly after.

For Patrick Schnarr, co-owner of Outcast Brewing in southeast Calgary, the flash flooding in the parking lot of his brewery came as a surprise.

“Once the rain started, I went to the back to leave and go to my van and there was three feet of water in it,” Schnarr said. “The water came up to the door handles on the van, inside the van and the entire parking lot was flooded.”

Schnarr grabbed his camera to film the flooding, capturing dumpsters and seacans floating by as the water continued to rise.

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Luckily, the brewery stayed dry, but came within inches of flooding before the water subsided.

“Another 15 minutes or less of rain, we would’ve had flooding in our building and that would’ve set us back three months by the time we ripped all the flooring out and the walls and everything,” Schnarr said. “We narrowly avoided disaster.”

Meanwhile, fans were on full blast at Hillhurst United Church to dry the carpets after some flooding in the basement.

The rainwater seeped into the 107-year-old church through doorways to the back alley and soaked the daycare in the basement.

The church’s director of operations, Anne Yates-Laberge, noticed the heavy downpour on Thursday night and decided to check on the church.

Yates-Laberge put out a call on social media for help to drain the water.

“All of a sudden we’ve got five people down here with all their fans and equipment,” she said. “It’s also good we have a community that jumps in hands and feet first when we need help.”

Daycare was cancelled on Friday at the church as the floors continue to dry and the church is waiting to hear from their insurance company to decide the next steps in the clean-up.

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According to Enmax, around 10,000 homes lost power due to the storm.

Emergency crews were called to dozens of city streets, underpasses and parking lots where the extreme rainfall had caused localized flooding.

Some drivers found themselves stranded in water that almost completely submerged their vehicles in trouble spots like Glenmore Trail underneath the Macleod Trail overpass, while others were able to pick up enough momentum to plow through.

Others, like some customers at Ikea, were forced to push their vehicles out of the pooling water.

A severe thunderstorm caused flash flooding throughout Calgary on Thursday, June 27, 2019.
A severe thunderstorm caused flash flooding throughout Calgary on Thursday, June 27, 2019. Global News

Acting Battalion Chief with the Calgary Fire Department Innes Fraser told Global News they were “overwhelmed” with calls.

“We had enough calls coming in, actually, that we assigned a fourth dispatcher,” Fraser said. “We were dealing with everything from rescues of people who were trapped in their car — they had driven their car into areas with a lot of water — to rescues of people out of their basement suites.

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“We had lightning strikes, power pole fires due to lightning strikes, we had motor vehicle accidents and then commercial and residential flooding.”

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Fraser said no injuries were reported.

A severe thunderstorm caused flash flooding throughout Calgary on Thursday, June 27, 2019.
A severe thunderstorm caused flash flooding throughout Calgary on Thursday, June 27, 2019. Global News

Calgary police were forced to close several roads due to the flash flooding, and firefighters responded to several calls about manhole covers that had been blown off.

“The risk when manhole covers come off is not just for vehicles but for firefighters when we wade into the water to get people out of their vehicles,” Fraser explained. “With the murky water, firefighters can’t see where the manhole covers are missing, and they could end up falling in.”

WATCH: Innes Fraser with the Calgary Fire Department joins Dallas Flexhaug via phone to detail their response to hundreds of calls during Thursday night’s thunderstorm.

Calgary Fire Department responded to hundreds of calls during storm
Calgary Fire Department responded to hundreds of calls during storm

“Although they’re not common, it seems these severe weather events do come through the city more than they have in the past … if you can stay off the roads and inside, it’s probably your best bet.”

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Calgary Transit, meanwhile, suspended CTrain operation in either direction from the Chinook LRT station due to the heavy rain.

The rainfall also caused issues for travellers at the Calgary International Airport, which had to suspend ground operations.

After the thunderstorm warning had ended, at around 9:30 p.m., the airport tweeted asking for patience as they worked to get operations back on track.

In total, 22 millimetres of rain was recorded at the Calgary International Airport on Thursday evening.

“So the good news is it was not like 2013,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Friday during a scrum with reporters. “Flash flooding is very different than river flooding.”

“The way the system is designed is actually for the water to be held very temporarily in underpasses and interchanges and roads because they can handle it. It’s much better than that water being held in people’s basements.”

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“It all drained overnight,” Nenshi added. “Which is exactly what the system is designed to do.”