Four Hours to Evacuate at the Cabin

June 20, 2013: The mighty Bow River is flooding. The Cabin and Golf Resort at Hidden Valley on the Siksika Reserve  is in danger of being inundated.

We left the cabin at Hidden Valley at about 11:30 PM (June 20) and were safely home several hours later. We had loaded our little travel trailer with as much stuff from the cabin as we had time to pack in the 4 or so hours we had to evacuate. The rest of the stuff – we either moved  to the loft, or simply put up onto the top of the cabinets in the kitchen.

No time to think much about what to haul away and what to leave. No time to take any last pictures. No time to say good-bye to anyone. Just get loaded up and out of there so that we didn’t block the route of all the other trucks and trailers that were trying to load and get out. The evacuation siren was going continuously. Unsettling.

We saw many people with big utility trailers loading up furniture and appliances. For them, these places were not just a summer cabin, they were where they lived all summer. For  a few, including some of the members of the Siksika Nation, it was their full time home. For the Siksika Nation, it was a source of revenue and employment.

The Car Guy’s sister and her husband hauled as much stuff as they could onto high ground on the other side of the river. In the morning we will head out to where they are and help them move their travel trailer, cargo trailer and motorcycles – someplace. The cabin was to be their home for six months of the year – they just recently sold their home in Calgary.

The lady we had bought the cabin from came over and asked if she could see the cabin for one last time. They had rebuilt the cabin after the flood in 2005, and she was obviously very upset that it was going to flood one last time. “This sunroom,” she said. “I had this built with the inheritance I got when a family member died. Did you enjoy using it?”

I replied, yes, very much – I’ll miss it a lot. (She and her husband had driven down from Edmonton to help the people next door evacuate.)

We didn’t even have time to sandbag as we did in 2011. There didn’t seem to be any point. The river is expected to be that much higher than previously. (See The Angry River in 2011.)

On the way home last night, we stopped in Strathmore for gas and to catch our breath. I asked The Car Guy if he had remembered to pack The Weather Stone. I had put it on the picnic table. He said yes,  he had packed it. Odd what things are the most important when you believe you are going to lose everything that is left behind.

This will be the end of the Hidden Valley Resort, I expect. This was to be our last summer there, then we would pack up what we could and move out.  I guess the River will move us out instead.

Of course, we are just 300 of the families that are affected. There are many more people here in Siksika Nation who have also had to evacuate, and of course there are all the other families upstream who have already had their homes flooded or destroyed.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada leaves us with this one last thought: “It’s important to take preventative action against flooding because damage caused by overland flooding is not covered by home insurance policies anywhere in Canada.”  (Short of not living within miles of a stream or river, there isn’t much preventative action you can take that stops water from coming in where you don’t want it – or so it seems to me.)

June 21, morning: We drove back out to the cabin and were told we had about 20 minutes to get anything else we wanted. The gas company came around and turned off all the gas. We quickly threw our last treasures into the back of the truck and left. The bridge was packed with members of the Siksika Nation who had come to watch the raging waters.

We drove to the top of the hill where many of the cabin owners and members of the Siksika Nation had assembled in the parking lot of the beautiful Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park.  The Park’s lookout platform gave us an unobstructed view of the Bow River and Hidden Valley. We stood and talked for several hours as we watched the river rise. The immense power of water – it was terrifying and mesmerizing. We reluctantly headed for home before the water spilled over the berm.

June 21, 7:45 PM: The berm has been breached (near the west end, I believe). The water has flowed over the berm in many other places including the gate by the bridge. The only remaining question is, what will be the high water mark this time?

I think most cabin owners can show you a high water mark on a window or a wall of their cabin. It is like a badge of honour. “The water came up to here in 1995, and here in 2005. But we rebuilt.” The high water mark of 2013. There will be one on each and every cabin that survives, but there will not likely be a third round of rebuilding.

June 21, 9:30 PM: The Car Guy’s sister, still camped up on the hill overlooking Hidden Valley writes: ” The river, the lake, the first hole and the beach have merged. But the red truck on the 1st fairway looks like it is still dry! And a small river is flowing from back water/mechanical gate into the Bow. We are the river now! If you are coming tomorrow to view from the Historical Park, bring DEET! Lots of it!”

35 thoughts on “Four Hours to Evacuate at the Cabin

  1. Bless your hearts. I know how devastating this is for you all. It’s a blessing you all had a chance to take some of your things with you. I hope you all find a suitable shelter to weather the flood and find a new home real soon.
    My prayers and thoughts are with you & the Carguy and your family too.

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    • Fortunately we have a home to go home to. But many of the people at Hidden Valley are retirees, and this was their home every summer. Some of the cabin owners were members of Siksika Nation, and they too will be homeless.

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  2. I heard about the flooding in Alberta this morning on the news. Devastating and very sad. I’m glad that you were able to salvage a few things and I’ll keep good thoughts for you and the others who are weathering this storm (no pun intended). Hang in there, Margie.

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    • Thanks Cheryl. The flooding here is beyond comprehension. Even downtown Calgary is closed because of water in the streets! Upwards of 100,000 people have been evacuated in just Calgary alone.

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    • Yes, I think I was able to salvage most of the things with the best memories – the Weather Stone, of course; the little toy trucks that my nephews son always plays with when he comes for a visit; the ‘Welcome to the Cottage’ sign that hung by the front door; the jigsaw puzzles that our family have put together so many times.

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  3. I am so sorry to hear you have been going through this Margie. I can’t even imagine having to decide what to take in just a few short hours and having to evacuate so quickly. I’m glad your computer is with you though and you are willing and able to share this life changing experience. The main thing is to stay safe! ~Dor

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    • Thanks Dor. We were home safe and sound last night, but I didn’t sleep all that well. I finally go up and did the blog post before he headed back to the cabin to salvage what else we could.

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    • I can understand Saskatchewan’s concern The raging rivers just get bigger and bigger as their tributaries add their burden of water. All that water is going to end up in Saskatchewan!

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      • I know… the water isn’t likely to reach us directly, in the south east corner, but even if we escape the flood we still watch with a sickened feeling as we see more images coming from Calgary and surrounding area.
        It is difficult to see people’s homes disappear in the water and mud.

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  4. We have been watching the news from Alberta and have seen the pictures of the devastation taking place. It is hard to fathom how quickly things have happened. It was good to hear that you managed to retrieve some of your things and memories. Our thoughts are with you, Car guy, Car Guy’s sister and brother-in-law. We sincerely hope things won’t be as bad as you are anticipating. Please keep us posted. E

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  5. Mom – it is a sad way to end our time at the cabin. Would have been nice to say good bye properly. But, our memories are intact and we don’t have to drive away from a perfectly good location feeling only the injustice of politics. The river is claiming her land.

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    • About a week ago, one of the First Nation Councillors commented that he felt it was only a matter of time before the Hidden Valley resort ended up being relocated (by the river) down to the Bassano Dam. Who thought it would happen so soon?

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  6. Just a note to thank you for your reflective genial and truth thoughts. My wife and I have (or had) a cabin with you. We are out of the province and could not do much about the wet days. We wish you well on your next adventure – perhaps your writing will be different post the FLOOD.

    Cheers

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    • Hi Peter – so sorry you weren’t here to take part in the evac. It was orderly and efficient. The siren system worked just the way it was supposed to.
      I hope the Hidden Valley residents are able to gather together one more time to actually say good-bye to one another.

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  7. We were at Hidden Valley till 2am as well. It was my in-laws home. We were some of the people with the furniture in the trucks and trailers. It’s so sad to say good bye to a place that holds so many great memories this way. We also thought that we would have the summer to enjoy it and say good bye the right way. I’m sorry what you are feeling.. just remember you are not alone in this. Take Care

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    • Hi Christine. We were looking forward to this summer too. Most of the family were going to be there for Canada Day. We were going to clap at all the decorated carts in the parade. (I fear most of those carts will be bobbing down the river before this is over.)
      Thanks for taking the time to join me in remembering.

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  8. We are glad to hear that everyone is safe, but our thoughts are with you, Car Guy, Car Guy’s Sister and Brother-in-law. Take care.

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  9. Please let your readers know that I have started taking donations for Siksika which will be delivered tomorrow morning. Food and Water can be dropped off at 220 Cove Court in Chestermere.

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  10. thank you for sharing. reading your ad (see later post) helped gave us a chuckle. your cabin is probably next to ours somewhere near sunset street. stat safe.
    bernice

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