Today we have another diversion from my usual business of food. I spent my weekend at the Calgary Dragon Boat Festival, which has been an annual event for me for as long as I can remember. This blog entry is for the benefit of my friends and family who are not on Facebook or Google Plus. Yes, you know who you are. I drop you an email about once a year to catch up. If I remember. This time, all you get is a blog entry.
The sun was shining making for a warm beautiful weekend. I drummed for Bad Tippers which is a merged boat from Monday and Thursday night practices. For not having a full boat for any practice, I think we did pretty well. I even got to paddle, as a last minute recruit. We had the pleasure of meeting Mayor Nenshi and got a Kodak moment with him. I’ve seen him in person twice this year, he certainly gets around. He could have a second career as a comedian, he obviously knows a good team cheer from one that needs improvement. Yes, ours needed improvement and I’m not going to disagree. I made it up; I’ll take the heat for it. 😉
So I am going to unashamedly advertise for my dragon boat club. If you enjoyed the festival, please join us again next year!
Today I decided to go to High River. I headed out with a group of volunteers coordinated by JH Innovations. The company did our renovations a couple of years ago and they are a class act.
The Sunshine neighborhood is a victim of some serious traffic congestion. Between all the commercial vehicles in to help and all the volunteers and trash, it was a zoo. Faster to walk than to drive.
These guys are awesome. They brought a ton of food and supplies. We setup our home base in a park and donned our lovely coveralls.
Our first assignment was mucking out a basement. Looked pretty much the same as what I did last week, except for one difference. Mould. These basements have been sitting in the water for over two weeks in some cases. The entire town had an odour that smelled not so nice. I made sure that I got a proper respirator rather than a N95 mask.
A couple of us went to the house next door, which wasn’t too bad, as they were mostly done, just taking down the drywall and insulation.
The third house was really bad. Black mould had permeated almost all of the insulation in the basement.
The fourth house was difficult as we did not have lighting and few had headlamps. I couldn’t see the mould.
We went back to house one to disinfect with bleach. What a difference! I am actually liking the smell of bleach.
It was very sobering to see the amount of damage in this community. They truly need all the help that they can get. If you go, please bring proper protective equipment. Safety glasses. Yours truly had bits of dry drywall fall over her eyes. A proper respirator with replaceable filters. Suitable for painting. The smell will get to you after a while and this will give you healthier air to breathe. Long sleeves and long pants. Clothes that you can throw away. And rubber boots! Who knows what is in that water.
I made a few more new friends today, Hopefully we can stay in touch. The generosity of Calgarians and Albertans in general amazes me. As long as there is a need, I will try to help.
I had set out with the intention of looking for some more manual labour type work today. But I think this past week and the heat has caught up to me. So I decided to check out Stanley Park. I packed my cooler full of popsicles, mandarin oranges and grapes. It was a hot day out there, 34C to be exact.
On the way there, I walked by a pedestrian bridge that used to go over the Elbow. I remember how rickety it was. I guess it needed to be replaced anyway.
The community is still quite a mess. Generators were going and there were a lot of contractors coming and going. Didn’t see as many people out though. Just the homeowners and contractors. Maybe volunteers were back to work? Once the dumpsters are out of the way, the streets could use a sweep.
I walked by a park and sat at a picnic table. The ground still gave a little, even though we haven’t had rain in a week. The grass was mud covered, but still enough to stick to my sandals.
Highlights of my visit:
I offered a homeowner a snack, which she gratefully accepted. I then asked if she would like to take some for her work crew. Her response was, “They’re paid workers”. I said, “That’s ok, I feed everybody.”
I met a Postie delivering the mail and he didn’t look like he had any water with him in the sweltering sun. He was very happy to get some grapes.
The Farm Girls truck was parked in the community and offering free food. I think the owner’s house was condemned but they are nice enough to keep on feeding volunteers.
It’ s hot out today. 28C at COP and hotter on the street. What could be better than freezies? I took the ctrain and my bike down to Mission/Rideau Park today. I saw a few volunteers with their buggies and coolers handing out food and drink. But not in the numbers that were on Bow Crescent. Downtown was bustling with people celebrating Canada Day. I think everyone took Mayor Nenshi seriously when he said to take the day off.
I also saw what I thought were houses under construction… but instead thought that maybe everything was ripped down to the studs.
Highlights for today:
Handing out freezies indiscriminately to the parking cop controlling traffic, city inspection workers and anyone walking down the street. I think the construction workers were the most appreciative.
Seeing every house with a full dumpster on the street. No street parking here.
Stopping by a couple girls armed with super soakers keeping watch on my street. They said “You’re lucky.” I said, “spray me!” And they did.
Yesterday, I headed back to Bowness to help along with a few friends. Bow Crescent, I can’t wait it see it when it’s back to normal. The house I was working at, already had the basement gutted. The guys were hauling stuff out of the garage and cleaning it. The gals were cleaning and disinfecting inside the house.
I still can’t get over how many people dropped by the house and offered us food!
That part of Bow Crescent is very dusty as the street was gravel before the flood. But the street sweeper came by! And the garbage trucks came by multiple times. Also a house a few doors down is probably going to be condemned.
Calgary, thank you for showing your community spirit again. I do hope it will stick around, long after the last cleanup is done.
Start by parking your car where you can find space in the neighborhood.
Sprint to the Community Support Centre to pick up your supplies (gloves, mask) before they run out
Run to the address that you’ve been given. It’s probably about a kilometer away.
Try to find the homeowner. If they are not there, continue to the next house that could be in need of help.
Obstacle 1: Slip, sliding, away. Head down to the basement filled with 3 inches of water. No matter that you forgot your headlamp.
Start peeling off completely soaked drywall and throw in basket. Haul up to open window. Empty, repeat.
Obstacle 2: To the dump, dump, dump. You have been relieved of drywall duty. Head upstairs and out to the window. Bag wet drywall bits and insulation. Throw into wheelbarrow and cart out front. Dispose of in dumpster.
Detour! Run to find the nearest porta pottie down the street.
Run back to house and homeowner thanks you for you help and sends you off with a cookie.
Go back to Community Support Station and get another address.
Run a kilometer in the other direction to find building.
Obstacle 3: Dry wall destruction. Go down to the basement of condo building with sewer backup. Hold nose. Score and hammer drywall. Remove. Repeat. Haul full bin up the stairs. Breathe fresh air.
Walk back to car. Being muddy is a badge of honour. Since the City wants you to conserve water, skip the shower and do it all again tomorrow.
You’ve won the race in the minds of the people that you have helped today.
Well Calgary, you have impressed me again. I’ve just finished the two days of the best volunteer experiences in my lifetime.
This morning, my new friend Penny picked me up and we headed back to Bowness. We got our assignment at the Sportsplex and headed to the address. The homeowner was not around so we went down the street in search of opportunity. We found Joanne, who was emptying her basement. She had a lot of help already, but appreciated the extra hands. I finally got the chance to get dirty! I got to muck a basement. There was a few inches of water down there. The water went past the ceiling and into the first floor. As a result, the drywall came off really easily, but was heavy due to being waterlogged. We shoved the mess out the basement window. It was quite the experience.
I returned home with time enough to grab a snack. Emily left a message saying she needed help and equipment in Sunnyside. I packed up a shovel, crowbar, garbage bags and wheelbarrow. We were cleaning the basement of a friend’s condo building that was the victim of a sewer backup. It came halfway up the wall. This was harder to deal with than the previous assignment. The bottom part of the drywall came off easy, but the top foot was dry and needed to be scored and ripped off. There were no windows, so everything had to be hauled up the stairs. They needed a generator to power the lights. Hard manual labour, but I quite enjoyed it.
The highlights for today:
Meeting one very grateful homeowner in Bowness
Removing the ceiling of the basement and having water pour out
Getting covered with mud, and…
Getting caught on camera by Shaw while visiting their water station
Meanwhile in Sunnyside…
A family walked by offering us free chili and peanut butter and jam sandwiches
A lady pulled up in her SUV and offered us sandwiches, juice, fruit, carrots and snacks
Shaw person walked by offering us free flashlights
People who I just met treating me like family
Finishing the afternoon event with a beer in hand on the sidewalk. Bylaws drove by. CPS drove by, rolled down the window and chatted. Beer drinking continued.
Back to work tomorrow! If I wasn’t working, I would volunteer again.
I’ll admit I didn’t know what I was getting into when I showed up at McMahon Stadium this morning. One thing, I knew it would be an adventure. I baked some carrot muffins last night and thawed some GF banana bread from the freezer and took it with me. It took some time to organize; we all had to fill out an information sheet (waiver). We lined up, got our forms signed and waited to board the buses. They couldn’t accommodate all the people on the buses so they had us split into groups of 100 and given an address. My destination was Bowness. I met a random group of people and we piled into a vehicle for the drive there.
When we got there it was a bit of chaos. Those in charge were not expecting 100 volunteers that were not residents of the community to show up. But people spoke up and asked for what they needed.
10 people to help the military with administrative duties until 10pm
Helping a homeowner at xxx address to clean up
Helping resettle evacuated residents of a seniors home
The local Sportsplex was set up as a central command centre. There was a place to register volunteers, an area for those who need help to pick up supplies. And a ton of donations. Rona brought in a ton of pails and garbage cans. I helped offload donated clothing and rags that a local chiropractic office had collected.
Our first assignment of the day was to help a homeowner cleanup. We entered the red zone. The red zone is an area where it has not been cleared for the evacuees to return home. Traffic into the affected areas is controlled by police. There is no power, gas, and possibly water. Nevertheless, in areas where the water had cleared, homeowners returned to start the cleanup. As we drove to the affected area, I could not help but notice all the drywall, furniture and personal effects on people’s front lawns. We passed a house with “no power, no gas” and a cat sitting in the window. The roads were either muddy or dusty. We passed by a building that housed some 911 equipment. It was surrounded by sandbags and booms. When we arrived, we were put to work cleaning with bleach and drying items just moved out of the basement. The guys were helping with the heavy lifting of the appliances out of the basement. Then they gutted and removed the drywall.
After that assignment, our motley crew went in search of more work. Everyone we passed by seemed to have all the help they needed. So we went back to the Sportsplex to help out.
Our next assignment came when one of our group helped a lady who was shell shocked and not sure of the help she needed. So six of us went over to her house and helped her clear out the garage. There was a lot of stuff in there, most of it was mud soaked and we took it out. She really struggled with throwing out her possessions.
Calgarians are exceptional. In all my years of volunteering, I have not seen a grassroots movement this large. Let me list some of the high points:
2500 volunteers showed up at McMahon Stadium for their assignments (they were planning to sign up 600)
Mayor Nenshi was there, firing up the crowd and thanking everyone for their help
One person stood up organized a random group of people. We counted to 100 as a group so we could be given an address to go to
Don’t be a Nenshi noun! (Don’t be an idiot)
How can I help? Was the motto for the day.
I met a guy from England that has been in Calgary for 3 weeks who volunteered. He started a job at the UofC. I told him this isn’t what you would normally expect in town.
I made at least 5-6 new friends today. One of them is picking me up tomorrow to go back to Bowness
Shaw set up a station to hand out food and snacks for the volunteers on a street in Bowness
A homeowner who was flooded, set up a volunteer registration and food station on her front lawn
Food trucks were handing out free food at McMahon.
The volunteer station on Bow Crescent was happy to receive the carrot muffins and GF banana bread
The organizers made sure the volunteers were well fed and watered in the community
A shout out to my new friends, Hugh, Rick, Faye, Penny, Pheobe and Sandy
The lack of formal organization compared to the amount of stuff that got done was truly amazing. There is a lot of humanity and compassion in Calgary, that shows up in situations like this. People just took the initiative. So many donations, in the way of supplies and food for the volunteers.One person in our group asked how the homeowner was feeling, and paused to listen. Some homeowners were grateful for the number of volunteers that spontaneously showed up.
You too can help. Visit the page yychelps.ca, check out calgary.ca for volunteers ops, find friends that have just returned home and see if they need help, or show up at one of the community muster stations. As for me, I will be headed back to Bowness tomorrow morning. Then back to work on Wednesday. I’m proud to be a resident of this fine city.
I normally only talk about food and restaurants. But today, a perspective on the Alberta floods.
Last night, when the evacuations around the Elbow River started, life still seemed to be normal downtown. I took the Ctrain downtown to my yoga class. I was amazed at how high the water level was over the west end of downtown. Stores were still open, and I had no trouble getting home.
Waking up this morning to evacuation orders for all areas bordering the Bow and Elbow Rivers. My workplace is closed, so I am home for the day. I am very lucky. I live inner city, but on top of a hill. I decided to hop on my bike and go for a short ride.
Kensington is usually bustling, busy, chock full of people and traffic. Due to the evacuation order, all power is off, including the traffic lights. It is like a ghost town.
There is some pedestrian traffic, most of it to one of the only open bridges to downtown.
It is amazing how high the water is. I am surprised that the bridge is open to traffic. They are still in the process of evacuating downtown, so maybe that is why.
I decided to walk over the bridge and I noticed some people that should really be farther away from the water. Just a second before this shot was taken, someone was walking through the water.
Calgary’s new multimillion dollar Peace Bridge. Just constructed, it would be ironic if it was washed away.
I’ve lived many years in Calgary and this is the first natural disaster of this scale that I have seen. I consider myself very lucky that I can carry on with my day in a normal manner. As a matter of fact, the garbage truck just came by to pick up the trash just now. It is very surreal, to visit the community just south of me, to see it evacuated.
When I was biking home, a peace officer was directing traffic on the corner of 14 St. and 5 Ave. NW. It was pouring rain, and he was doing his job. If the stores were open, I would have stopped and bought him a coffee.
My heart goes to my friends in Canmore. They don’t live too far from Cougar Creek. Last I checked with them, they seem to be fine.
Just learned that hubby has to work overnight and probably the weekend at the hospital. People can’t come into work because they have been evacuated.
I’m sure many people, including myself are wanting to help right now. But the Mayor says the best thing to do is stay home and stay safe. Both the Bow and Elbow Rivers have crested and there is still more rain in the forecast. The water level has not yet started going down.
There is a lot of humanity out there. Many people have offered their homes to those evacuated. People are trying to do the best they can. I really like that about Calgary, we have people that care, and pull through in times of crisis.