Those images coming out of Calgary were something else. Roads broken, cars underwater, the Saddledome wrecked. Having spent the past several years combing through newspapers for stories of decimation and surreal post-apocalyptic destruction within North America for my novel Swarm, it brought to mind the city that I created: on the edge of collapse because in a post-oil society, city governments just don’t have the money to keep it up.
As I looked at the pictures, I couldn’t help but wonder if any imaginative sort has already started drafting a story about Calgary in a time when repairs can’t be made and people just live like that: with water damage everywhere, the stadium one huge crumbling disaster.
But that’s fiction, and this flooding is all too real. I am touched by its reality in an unusual way – well, it feels unusual to me, having only lived here for a few months. The Pas is downriver from Calgary and for the past little while the headlines have been extreme, saying things like Flood Waters Head for The Pas. Cue scary music.
Our town has declared a State of Emergency so that anyone whose house gets damaged can make a claim. Workers at the Agricultural Grounds are filling sandbags and we keep watching the river on our nightly walks, wondering what’s going to happen.
When a friend of mine from Saskatoon posted images on Facebook of the river breaking its banks onto a sidewalk, I took careful notice, because that’s the same water that will be coming our way.
It still has to go through Prince Albert and across northern Saskatchewan and through Cumberland House (which has been evacuated because the only road in and out gets flooded very easily). People here are saying that the Cumberland marsh will absorb a whole bunch of that water. Once it finally gets to us, the levels are expected to be the same as 2011, when the river flooded but people handled it and managed and our road didn’t even get wet.
There is concern, but most anticipate that everything will be fine. People are preparing: sandbagging if they were flooded in 2011. Apparently the immediate area of our house has “never flooded.” But in an age and a time when things that have “never happened” keep happening, it is difficult not to worry. I alternate between horrible imaginings of a CG tidal wave (or, simply, Calgary) and my happy place, with the help of breathing exercises.
I think this might be true for a lot of people. Despite the fact that the official predictions are pretty clear, it is hard to look at all those images of forest fires, tornadoes, and now Alberta flooding without thinking how easily you could be next.