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Calgary starts to dry out from floods, Medicine Hat evacuees start returning home

Watch above: Fire Chief and Emergency services director Bruce Burrell  updates the situation throughout Calgary.  Power has been restored to over 50 per cent of the downtown core,  water levels are being controlled, urges Calgarians to remain safe. (June 25)

TORONTO, CALGARY – Calgary bridges were reopening, public transit was improving and dried mud was being swept from streets, but the downtown core remained far from normal on Tuesday.

The city’s emergency management director, Bruce Burrell, said groundwater was slowing down cleanup.

WATCH: Effects of Calgary flood (June 24)

“We have a number of areas in the city where we’ve been doing pumping, and when we stop the pumping, they just fill right back up – the basements of the buildings, the parkades, the underpasses,” he said.

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Burrell said it was a delicate balance between restoring power to residential communities and getting the economic heart of the city restored.

READ MORE: Maps and steps for re-entry and self-assessment of your property

He also said it’s important not to rush to flick the switch back on, even though electricity might be available in some areas. Doing that too soon could blow a transformer, potentially cutting off power for months.

“You’d really like to say ‘full speed ahead … we’re going to put the power on to that area’ and then the bigger problem we create is we then displace another 3,000 residents,” Burrell said.

“I don’t want to get back into housing additional people for long periods of time. I want to have people going back in and having a sense of normalcy as much as possible.”

MORE: Alberta flood’s cost estimates mount as Calgary real estate forecast looms

WATCH: Alberta flood clean-up begins (June 24)

In Medicine Hat, officials were allowing the first group of about 10,000 evacuees to return to their properties. Ron Robinson, emergency measures director for the city of more than 60,000, said inspectors were going in with homeowners to assess whether their houses were livable.

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He said some people might not be allowed to stay if there was still floodwater or utilities were lacking. He also warned them to be “mentally prepared” for some severe damage.