In Alberta, misery rises along with floodwaters

Story highlights

  • The three victims are in the flooded town of High River
  • Medicine Hat is preparing for the flooding to start Saturday night
  • Much of Calgary is still submerged
  • The Saddledome, home to the Calgary Flames, is flooded

A third person has died in the extensive flooding that has deluged entire towns and threatens even more communities in southern Alberta, Canada, authorities announced Saturday.

The three victims, two females and a male, were all found in the Highwood River that runs through the town of High River, about 40 miles south of Calgary, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said. Officials did not identify the victims.

High River is one of the worst-affected areas in the flooding that began after torrential mountain rains. At one point, the entire town of 13,000 was covered in brown floodwater and all residents are under an evacuation order, Cpl. Laurel Kading of the RCMP told CNN.

There was "substantial" and "extensive" damage in the town, where waters rose so rapidly Thursday that about 1,000 people had to be airlifted or rescued by boat, the RCMP said. Kading described one man who dropped his keys when the water began rising, and when he stood up, the water was at his waist.

The local news site High River Online reported river levels down substantially on Saturday in some parts of the town, but high water remaining in others.

Photographs from the site Saturday showed a large pickup truck entirely caked in mud, indicating how high the water had reached. Another showed a submerged railway bridge covered in tree trunks and tree limbs. More photos showed buildings and roads still submerged.

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The RCMP said it was conducting door-to-door checks of homes throughout High River.

    There also was severe flooding to the west of the town, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

    "All the little towns all the way along have been affected to some degree or another," Kading said. "There are reports of some farms in rural areas where some people have been stranded as well."

    To the east, the city of Medicine Hat was preparing for the South Saskatchewan River to burst its banks. City Hall was lined with sandbags.

    The city predicted water to spill over the banks overnight Saturday and keep rising until it crests Monday morning.

    About 10,000 people in Medicine Hat, population 62,000, were evacuated ahead of the flooding. City spokesman Brandy Calvert said officials expect the flood to eclipse the one they had in 1995, which was the biggest on record.

    "We don't want to anticipate the worst, but we're going to be prepared for the worst," Alberta Premier Alison Redford said before visiting the city Saturday. "We know that from what we've seen everywhere else that this is more exceptional than we've ever seen in Alberta before, so we're presuming that that's probably the circumstance that we're looking at (in Medicine Hat) as well."

    Calgary was still covered in water days after the Bow and Elbow rivers overflowed. The city was under a state of emergency Saturday, though Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the flow of the water was slowing and some people could start returning home Saturday night.

    The home of the NHL Calgary Flames, the Saddledome, also was flooded. The team posted pictures on its website showing the darkened interior of the dome with brown water sitting at row eight, blocking the entrance to the players' tunnel.

    Downtown Calgary will be closed until the middle of next week at the earliest, said Nenshi's spokesman, Daorcey Le Bray.

    About 30,000 power customers were without power, the city said.

    A pedestrian bridge over the Elbow River was damaged and city assessors were trying to determine the state of the dozens of other bridges, Calgary Police said.