CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Southern Alberta braced for more disruption on Saturday from floods that have killed at least two people, forced about 100,000 people from their homes and blacked out the center of Canada’s oil capital, Calgary.
Communities to the south and east of Calgary were put on high alert as the flood waters moved across the region. But with rainfall easing up, authorities were hopeful that the worst might now be over.
“It’s morning in Calgary! Sunny, water levels are down, and our spirit remains strong,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said on Twitter. “We’re not out of this, but maybe have turned (the) corner.”
The floods followed some 36 hours of unusually heavy rainfall - some communities received six months of their normal rainfall in less than two days.
Evacuations started on Thursday, both in Calgary and in smaller cities across the south of the province. Utility Enmax switched off power to central Calgary late on Friday afternoon lest water damage its downtown facilities.
Calgary was unable to say how much it would cost to repair flooded homes and rebuild roads and bridges washed away by the murky brown floodwater.
But the floods are already shaping up to be significantly worse than those of 2005, which caused C$400 million in damage after three big storms struck in a single week.
The bulk of the evacuations were in Calgary, a city of 1.1 million that is home to Canada’s biggest energy companies, with up to 100,000 people ordered to leave their homes. The city urged drivers to stay off the roads, and warned people not to get too close to the raging rivers.
Canada’s oil producing region, way to the north of the city, was not affected, although some agricultural regions were flooded, with likely damage to crops that include wheat and canola.
“A lot of Albertans have faced disasters the likes of which the majority of us could never imagine,” Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths told a news conference.
The bodies of two men were found near High River, Alberta, a town of 13,000 located about 60 km (37 miles) south of Calgary. Police said two other people were missing.
In Calgary authorities said the Bow and Elbow Rivers had crested and water levels were expected to drop over the next few days. But the Bow was still flowing at around five times its normal rate on Saturday.
Mandatory evacuation orders remained in place in more than 20 parts of Calgary including the downtown core.
Nenshi said downtown, where many of Canada’s oil companies have their headquarters, could be off limits until Wednesday.
A spokesman for Imperial Oil, Canada’s second-largest producer and refiner, said the company was working on plans to maintain essential operations, including allowing employees to work from other locations.
Shorcan Energy Brokers, which provides live prices for many Canadian crude grades, operated out of Toronto on Friday rather than at its usual Calgary base, although no trades in either Western Canada Select heavy blend or light synthetic crude from the oil sands took place.
Net Energy Inc, the other main Calgary crude broker, was closed on Friday and no trading took place.
Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said there was still a chance of another surge in the Bow and Elbow rivers, but city authorities hoped people could move back to their communities as water levels fell.
Many roads and bridges remained closed, and residents were urged to conserve drinking water because treatment plants are taking more time to process the sludgy water.
The parts of Calgary under water included the grounds of the annual Calgary Stampede, which is due to start on July 5.
Burrell said the city would be working hard to restore Stampede Park in time for the rodeo, but it was not a priority.
Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Janet Guttsman and Eric Beech