Saturday, June 15, 2013

Angry Rivers, Floods and a Muddy Aftermath

It's still pretty soggy and miserable weather here but some good signs are in evidence as many of the residents who were evacuated from their homes have been allowed to return.  I have no idea how many sand bags have been filled by fellow Fort McMurrayites the past few days but the number reached its limit earlier today and the actual filling up sand bags has wound down....hopefully for good.

I headed down to the Sport and Wellness Centre at Keyano to do what I could.  As you can see from the pictures here, it was pretty gloomy and volunteers were pelted with a bit more rain.  It amazing to see residents both young and old and local businesses and organizations all pitching in to help.  (On a weird side note, I was approached by a burly guy in a biker jacket who noticed the big Nunavut flag on the front of my sweater and came up to shake my hand, telling me he had spent a few years working up their as well.  Small world.)

Our poor Heritage Park took quite a hit.  The grounds are now one big muddy mess.  I must admit that as a bit of a history nerd, I have a real soft spot for this place.  For a place that is falsely portrayed as nothing more than a boom town, Fort McMurray has a vibrant history.  For a community of its size, its done an admirable job of preserving historical structures.  I really hope this flood doesn't mark the end of its season.

The source of it all.  The Hangingstone River is still rather high but falling.  I've never seen it flowing this fast before.

Crew continue to work on reinforcing the river bank to prevent further erosion.  This was about as close to the flood zone as I felt it was wise to get.  I'm sure people have enough to keep them busy without a blogger with a camera wandering around down there.

What we really need now is a few good days of sun and clear skies.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hoping for Stable Banks

Fortunately we aren't supposed to get as much rain this weekend as was originally forecast. Still, I found myself looking up at the sky today rather frequently as there were a few scattered dark clouds. I resisted the urge to head out today for some photos of the flooding as I'm sure they don't need random people running around with cameras down there. An emerging threat at the moment are the banks of the Hangingstone River itself. Bitumen oozes naturally out of the ground in this area and as you can tell from the photos below the river banks are already precipitous and unstable.  These two photos were taken last May during better times.

The concern now is that a large enough section of Beacon Hill along the south bank of the river could give way and fall into the river creating a dam and causing the already swollen river to divert into nearby homes.  This photo below show a portion of Beacon Hill (taken last year) upstream from one of the city's residential areas.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rising Waters

I know I've been a tad behind on the blog (mainly due to work) but there is another reason as well.  As you've no doubt heard, parts of Fort McMurray have been inundated rising flood water this past week.  This played havoc with my internet connection apparently as its been a tad spotty the past week.   So I apologize in advance if this post seems like I'm all over the place.

I managed to get some much-needed yard work taken care of last Friday....and then it started to rain.  From last Friday until this past Monday it rained.  Actually, that's putting it mildly as it was down right intense at times and to add insult to injury, the wind also picked up rather strongly at times.  Most of what I know comes from word of mouth as I've had little time to follow the news, but apparently in that 72-hour period parts of our region were hit with as much as 180mm of rain.   The past couple days have been a mix of sun and cloud and I awoke at 3am this morning to light drizzle so I am hopeful that in terms of rain least, the worst is now behind us.

Anyhow, I can assure everyone wondering that I am perfectly sound.  Sadly, there are people in our community who aren't.  I found out late this afternoon that one young kid I work with had his room flooded out down in Grayling Terrace.  Mandatory evacuations are in place.  Ironically, I had hoped to take a hike last weekend along the Hangingstone River, the very body of water that has been the source of all this turmoil.  The Hangingstone is a meandering river that empties into the Athabasca River via the Clearwater and from what I understand the erosion along its banks is a real threat now.  Grayling Terrace and parts of Waterways have been inundated as were a trailer park, Keyano College, and our Heritage Park.  (I heard at work that there is as much as 3 or 4 feet of water in the area of the Heritage Park and you could easily go for a swim.)  I had to take a good hard look at many of the photos I've seen to even recognize where exactly they were taken.  A washed out bridge south of town also made access to a couple oil sands projects a real headache.

I spent a lot of time the past few days counting my blessings.  When I moved here 3 years ago, it was a choice between my home in Thickwood or down in Waterways.  While I had a couple patches of soggy lawn, this pales in comparison to what some other residents are dealing with.   One thing I've learned about this community though, is that it has always faced challenges and its has always overcome them.

Photos, as well as the efforts of stem the tide can be found courtesy of fellow local bloggers here
and here.  I will endeavour to do an update here in the coming days.