Crazy days in Canmore.
I was going to write this next blog about the environmentally friendly actions that Mountain Mercato is doing, but that was before the events of the last few days.
The scenario of the last few days have been surreal. It started for me on Thursday, June 20th with a breakfast date with some work friends at the Radisson Hotel. At this point none of us had any idea of the damage and evacuation being done up in Cougar Creek. When we did finally sit down and got the news delivered by our waiter, the information flooded in.
There was a mudslide on the way to Banff
The highway to Calgary was closed
People were stuck in Cougar Creek
and Exshaw was facing some serious water issues as well.
The Radisson itself was frantic. People who were supposed to check out that day couldn’t leave, because they had no way of leaving, and that left no room for those who needed to check in. In the end, there were beds set up in the conference rooms for the extra guests to sleep in.
I went to MM to see how they were fairing, and it seemed that downtown had lost power. At MM I learnt that Elana, the owner, and her daughter were being evacuated from their home. They had packed their bags, hopped onto a school bus and were sent to the evacuation center. Later, I learnt that they were safe and sound. Other employees were also being evacuated from Palliser Place and other areas near Cougar Creek. As I wasn’t working I eventually went home to sit on my coach and watch videos on YouTube of the decks and hot tubs being pushed down the river. We ended up taking in friends of the family whose house was on the creek. All night they were just hoping that their house was still standing in the morning.
The second day went by in a flurry of action. I came into work and was surprised to find MM busy with activity. I guess, since the rain was continuing, there was not much for the locals and the stuck visitors to do but see what was going on downtown. I arrived at noon and saw Elana for the first time. She was tired but standing strong, as well as all the other employees. The conversations with the customers revolved around the same questions, “how’s your house?”, or, “how are you guys holding up?”. If the person lived in the evacuated areas, “do you have a place to stay?” was the most common. It was nice to see the community making sure everyone was safe and comfortable. Before closing we moved all the produce and groceries off the bottom shelves, in the chance that MM would flood. There was high hope that nothing would happen, with the reinforcement project of the Bow River from earlier on in the year. As I was leaving work, the rain stopped and for the first time in 2 days we could see the mountains. It seemed that the worst of it was over. Now the wait began for the river and creek waters to subside so the damage to Canmore could be properly assessed.
On day number three, all seemed to be normal downtown, except for a number of the shops being closed, and the large trucks and army vehicles that occasionally passed through Main Street. It was a little surreal seeing those vehicles and hearing people’s stories of how they were fairing. Fortunately no one in Canmore has been hurt and food and goods were being delivered via police escort from outside. The roads were still closed to the public however, and that left a number of stranded visitors out and about. But luckily Canmore wouldn’t be running out of food anytime soon! MM might, however, since we are a small business and our buns and meat are locally made and delivered. Most of those businesses reside on the east side of Cougar Creek and it would take a few days, even with that side opening to businesses and residences today, for everyone to figure things out. Here’s to hoping that we can continue to operate and have a good supply of food so we don’t run out.
It has passed into days 4 and 5 and reflecting on the experience has taught me about Canmore as a community and the complexities of the increasingly globalized world. You don’t really understand or appreciate all that you have, when access to it is in jeopardy. People’s homes and belongings disappeared, and we were very near to a complete cut off from the rest of the world. You don’t often think about the thousands of trucks that travel across the country delivering food and goods for us to consume; they just appear in our convenience and grocery stores. You don’t think about it, that is, until it is about to disappear. There was a momentary scare that the food in Canmore would slowly start to dwindle, and that’s where my respect for Canmore as a community flourished. Even during those uncertain times Canmorites kept a level head, there was no mad rush at the grocery store to take as much as they could. It was busy, of course, but not crazy. The community support surrounding those who lost possessions was incredible; the donations of clothing and food were immense. It was not even the second day that the Bow Valley and Region Community Clean Up Effort was established at the Legion, providing food to this community and sending food out to the Morley Reserve. I went to an impromptu relief fund concert at Communitea where we raised $5,000. I am very proud of Canmore, its residences and all the crews, private and public that worked so hard to protect Canmore from more devastation.