Rain pelting southern Alberta for fifth straight day

Bragg Creek resident Gladell Adelman almost lost her dog Muffin to the torrent Saturday morning.

She'd taken Muffin out for a walk near the Elbow River, alongside her home and called the dog back from the river's edge seconds before the bank gave way to raging waters.

"She wouldn't have made it," Adelman said. "I could never have got her."

The Elbow River and other watercourses raged in southern Alberta Saturday as rain pelted down all day.

Residents of Bragg Creek were bracing themselves as rain and snowmelt made the Elbow an ornery river.

Low-lying communities south of Calgary were poised for flooding as well. High River in the south and Hidden Valley Golf Resort east of Calgary are expected to be hard hit today, with Environment Canada predicting riverbanks could overflow early this morning.

Calgary and its surrounding areas have received up to 55 millimetres of rain since Wednesday. An additional 20 mm are expected in the next two days, with rain tapering off late Monday.

Late Saturday, Calgary's fire department issued a flood warning for the Elbow River, advising residents to stay clear of the banks and offering a list of what to do in case of flooding.

Greg Solecki, emergency management planner for the City of Calgary, said water levels do not come close to those of 2005 -- when nearly three times the normal amount of water overwhelmed the Glenmore dam and played a part in flooding downstream.

"We still wouldn't experience any flooding until there's a much larger amount of water coming out of the dam."

Still, a Mission condo project under construction was one of the first Calgary sites emergency crews responded to Saturday night.

About a metre of water accumulated in the hole dug for the building's foundation at the site near the Elbow River and 25th Avenue S.W. The owner of the Conform Works Inc. project did not want to comment on the effect of the flooding on what will be a 33-unit, five-storey building.

Behind the construction site are three old homes that had their basements filled with water during the last flood in 2005.

"I'm not nervous," said a homeowner who didn't want to be named. "But that's what I said last time."

At 8 p.m., the water was 50 centimetres from the top of a cement barrier in front of his yard.

On nearby 24th Avenue S.W., condo resident Matthew Deyell said fire crews told him to be ready to evacuate his building, which faces the river.

Rising waters along the Elbow gave residents of Bragg Creek, Redwood Meadows and the surrounding areas eerie memories of 2005.

"The water is definitely rising and making us nervous," said Rob Evans, deputy chief for Redwood Meadows Emergency Services, which also serves Bragg Creek and surrounding areas.

"It's pretty close to levels where it was in 2005."

Evans said his department learned a lot from the 2005 flood. Three years ago, they tried pumping water from homes.

The problem: the water was drawn from houses and sent back into the ground, where it simply returned to the houses.

Evans said if houses are flooded this year, they will try to salvage the most important possessions. That said, his department had received no calls of flooding by Saturday afternoon.

"We assume that they're handling it so far," Evans said of local residents.

High River issued a local state of emergency Saturday night, putting local crews on standby.

"If things start to go real sour on us, this will assist us," said Len Zebedee, fire chief and director of emergency management for the town.

Fire crews started placing sandbags Saturday to prevent possible flood damage.

"We are not expecting any overflow of the river, but if it does it will only affect the low-lying areas and farmlands," Zebedee said.

Fire and RCMP crews in the town had set up an emergency operations centre and were taking phone calls and answering questions as the river rose.

Dick Burgis, general manager of Hidden Valley Golf Resort near Gleichen, said residents are wary of the rain because the community was hit hard by flooding in June 2005.

"We always make sure to keep a careful eye on the water this time of year," he said.

Three back-to-back storms in the spring of 2005 caused millions of dollars in damage throughout southern Alberta as water spilled over riverbanks and into basements, in some cases washing away cars and engulfing homes.

And although river levels had not raised concern in Lethbridge Saturday, saturated ground was posing a problem.

Sgt. Dwayne Smith of the Lethbridge Police Department said if the rain continued, a lot of soggy basements could be expected.

A woman camping near Pincher Creek, southwest of Calgary, called 911 when she discovered all roads leading to the area had been washed away, leaving her stranded.

A group of Girl Guides at Silverland campground near High River were asked to leave by fire crews, who were afraid overflow from the Highwood River would leave them stranded by tomorrow.

In Black Diamond, officials closed a campground for fear of washed out roads and high water levels from the Sheep River.