HIGH RIVER, Alta. – The long road to recovery began on Saturday for some residents of flood-stricken High River as part of the town was opened to those forced out last week.
Authorities ordered all 13,000 residents of this community south of Calgary to leave when the Highwood River burst over its banks. Streets were flooded and people were stranded in their vehicles and their homes.
“Anger’s not going to get me anywhere and I’m looking at today as AD – after destruction”, said Charlotte Jackson after she received a pass to return to her home.
“You start your life. It’s 2013 AD. We start building with what we can and that’s all you can don” she said with a chuckle.
“If you can’t keep some sort of positive attitude you may not get through this. I intend to get through this. I’ve got a lot of life to live.”
The highway leading to High River’s registration centre was a virtual parking lot. There was a huge lineup outside before the doors opened and traffic backed up a kilometre down the road.
Only about 5,000 people were allowed in. The next influx will be in about a week and the hardest hit neighbourhoods could be five more weeks.
“I know there’s a lot of other people in town that will face a lot more than a flooded basement,” said Chad Thomlinson.
“I’ve got to get back in. We’ve left our families behind, our wives and kids, and really the next thing for me is when can I get friends in to help.”
A state of disaster remains in effect. The length of time away from home coupled with a few hundred who defied the evacuation order led to simmering tensions.
Ryan Domes was relieved to get the news he was able to deal with his flooded basement.
“My first thought was it’s about time. I know there’s a lot of challenges in town but there’s a lot of dry areas,” he said.
“Good news for us. Bad news for most people. We feel for them.”
Clean up work continued Saturday in neighbouring Calgary where a state of emergency also remains in place. But there are no longer any Calgarians under an evacuation order.
The Alberta government announced Calgary residents with flood damage can start applying for funding on Tuesday.
Registration centres are opening in Calgary so residents with property damage can access disaster financial assistance.
“We promised support to rebuild would reach Albertans within days. This is happening,” said provincial cabinet minister Ric McIver. “We are starting with communities where safe re-entry and rebuilding has begun so they have the money they need to start their recovery.”