Personal Stories of the High River Flooding
When I finished my shift at the Temple on Thursday, June 20, I phoned a neighbour who urged me to come home as soon as possible. I arrived to find water rushing down the street. I grabbed a few things, got in our biggest vehicle and gunned through the rushing river of water on our road. The water was well up on the wheels. The road was sinking beneath me and the gravel spun under the tires. Another vehicle leaving at the same time did not make it out.
I drove to our business in Okotoks where my husband, our ward bishop, met me and we spent the next few hours looking for members in the evacuation centres. At 2:30 am, we parked our truck in a local park and slept until 5 am when we tried again to contact our members.
The bishop organized a Family Home Evening for Monday, June 24th and the Stake Presidency delivered food, clothes and refreshments. It was very good to get together,like a healing. There were hugs with people who had been through the same things.
Our home has not been flooded even though there was water on all 4 sides of the house. The LDS chapel in High River only had 3 inches of water in some classrooms, but now there is a canoe on the roof, a car in the flowerbed and a boat tied to a tree on the front lawn.
I was in Nanton on Saturday, June 29th for 9 hours seeing people who were lining up for assistance and was able to talk to many of them. The hardest part has been on my heart which hurts so much for the people in the ward.
At 10 pm on Thursday, the 20th, I left my house on the east side of High River in response to the mandatory evacuation. I thought I would be home the next day to help anyone who was flooded. On Friday and Saturday, there was a new lake. The town of High River, including my house, was underwater.
There have been lots of offers to help us. I’ve seen miracles. The Bishop’s house was an island in the middle of the river but not one drop of water inside.
One couple in the Ward didn’t get out of their house in time and then missed the first group of rescuers. Water was rushing by like a river on both sides of their house, but the Bishop was determined to find someone to rescue them. He went to unbelievable ends to tend to his flock. The things he did and the lengths he went to were inspired, including having the Family Home Evening the Monday after the flood.
One reads in the Ensign about how the Church helps other people in desperate times of need. It is beyond my ability to describe the impact of seeing the Church in action here—the truck loads of supplies from Lethbridge. And if we need things, Church leaders just go and get them.
Missionaries lived in the basement of the home of 80-year-old Nephi Richards. When he noticed the water running in the gutters, he went down and warned the missionaries. By the time, they came up the stairs, the water was up to the doors of the cars. The men scrambled into their vehicles and drove to higher ground in Montrose where they hoped to cross the bridge, but it too was washed out. A stranger invited them to come to her house. Soon after, her home had to be evacuated and so the men spent about eight hours stranded in knee-deep water. Finally, they were rescued and driven out of town in a gravel truck. The Bishop was waiting for them when they finally arrived.
Kathryn Van Berkel
On Thursday at 8:20 am, a neighbour phoned and said, “Let’s walk down to the river and see what is happening.” Ten minutes later, she phoned back and said, “We don’t need to, the river has come to us.” It was running by the front door. By 9:30, water was in the basement. Our grandson phoned from Calgary to see how we were doing. He told the businessman he was working with that he had to go to High River and rescue his grandparents. The businessman said, “I have a boat.” They arrived together in a motorized pontoon and rescued us and others.
I was at work in my office on Main Street. At first, there was a little water and my husband placed some sandbags at the entrance of the building. I sent him home so I could get some work done. Soon after, I saw a four-foot wall of water come down the street and hit the doors. The water rose higher and was waist deep within 2 hours. It even took one door off at the hinges so I put the files and computers up as high as possible. Finally a huge earthmover came by. The rescuer had to drag me out of a hole left by the displaced door because the other door would not open and I had to climb six steps up into the cab.
On the morning of Thursday, June 20th, I was out with my two little boys, ages 4 and 2. When I heard about the evacuation, I went home and called my husband, Andy. He said to go around and make sure the eaves troughs downspouts were pointed away from the house. Ten minutes later, water was coming down the back alley. Andy arrived with a generator and pump and there was just a little water in the basement. By the time the pump and generator were set up, it was too late to leave the street. I considered that a blessing as we were able in the next six hours to move precious things from the basement. Soon, however, moving things out of the basement had to be abandoned as it became too flooded.
Andy talked to the neighbours and arranged that when a boat arrived they would pick us up. Soon a boat pulled by two fire fighters and two neighbours came to our front yard. Andy helped pull the boat too. There were five neighbours, plus me and my two boys in the boat. We spent the next two hours trying to find safe passage through huge gravel trucks, cars, trees and other debris that was in the way. It was very frightening. I held my two boys tightly on my lap. My four-year-old was very quiet. My two-year-old didn’t know what was happening and just wanted to pet the dog. We were worried that the current was too strong for the children if something happened. By then, there were 14-15 people in or around the little rowboat floating down what had been the streets of town.
The First Responders had been at work all day and the batteries on their radios were dying. A helicopter made several passes and was sent a guy down to rescue us. They lifted my husband and two-year-old into the basket first, and then me and my four-year-old.
We were taken to the High River airport and waited there for several hours before my parents picked us up and drove us to Lethbridge where we are now staying with friends.
I acknowledge the blessing of those who looked out for us. I am thankful for the local Volunteer Fire Fighters and the Cold Lake Coast Guard [helicopter] who were rescuing people like us all day. I am so thankful too that we are now safe.
I spent a couple days in High River taking in a mud bath as I helped where Church members were organizing extensive cleanup efforts. From the first day and since the town was reopened, they have sent in at least two hundred workers per day. The homes there are full of mud. We were in basements taking out everything, including water heaters, furnaces, fridges, drywall, etc. We went in teams and used sleds, took some stuff up the stairs by hand or passed it through the windows. Most houses were flooded upstairs as well. Usually we would get to a few houses per day, but on Sunday, I worked just in one house and ripped out the entire hardwood flooring while others did the linoleum and drywall. Everything that got wet went out and most of that is now waste. Water did more than just fill the basements. Almost every home sooner or later would have a mountain of muddy possessions, furniture, appliances and parts of the house on their front lawn waiting to be removed. The streets were full of heavy equipment, sucking water and mud from the basements and hauling away the piles of garbage. Many of the homes were not covered by insurance.
It was uplifting to see the efforts of people helping. Some on their own volition arrived with wagons of food for the workers. Pickup trucks showed up with the box full of volunteers from various organizations providing more needed muscle. There was a great spirit of cooperation among all the people working for such a common cause.