SPECIAL REPORT: Alberta fleets truck on; deliver help when possible
June 21, 2013
CALGARY, Alta. -- Summer came in like a lion – a sea lion – in southern Alberta this year, as record flooding caused by heavy rains wreaked havoc across the region, closing and/or washing out roads and causing what will undoubtedly...
Flooding partially submerged vehicles at Lafarge in Calgary.
Truckers wait out the rains at the Road King Truck Stop.
A sign warns that MacLeod Trail is flooded.
More flooding at Lafarge.
CALGARY, Alta. — Summer came in like a lion – a sea lion – in southern Alberta this year, as record flooding caused by heavy rains wreaked havoc across the region, closing and/or washing out roads and causing what will undoubtedly be millions of dollars of damage to infrastructure, flooded businesses and homes.
Calgary, according to a Global TV meteorologist, received more than 50 millimetres of liquid sunshine in shortly more than 24 hours, yet that figure apparently paled compared with areas closer to the mountains, some of which had more than twice that total.
The inundation led to swollen rivers upstream, causing the Bow and the Elbow rivers – and others, such as the Sheep River passing through Okotoks – to spill over their banks, so much so that a state of emergency was declared in Calgary Thursday night. People were warned away from the downtown core and some 100,000 or more were evacuated and electrical power to the affected areas shut down. On Friday morning, city authorities asked people to refrain from unnecessary travel.
Despite that civic admonishment, there was plenty of activity, much of it along the main thoroughfare of Deerfoot Trail, which as of this writing threatens to sink under the onslaught of dirty brown water. In fact, part of the right-hand northbound lane of Deerfoot was already under water as of noon, local time, while the off ramp from northbound Deerfoot to eastbound Glenmore Trail was submerged already. Many roads have been closed down, including but not limited to routes heading to the downtown core. Even MacLeod Trail and the famous Stampede grounds were at least partially under water.
Farther south, the Bow River had carved out an entirely new channel to the west of its normal flow, edging along Deerfoot and submerging the Lafarge operation near Anderson road several feet under water, covering many of the vehicles parked there up near their hoods.
And while the mess isn’t affecting all the trucking in the area, it is having a definite impact as many trucks heading west and south were forced to park and mark time until the Trans-Canada Highway and the southern Crowsnest route reopened. The Trans-Canada was also reported to be closed east of Golden, B.C., stranding people in the Banff and Lake Louise areas.
Truck stops in Calgary were busier than usual with drivers forced to cool their heels until conditions allowed let them to get through. Cliff Haigh, who drives for Pro Ride Trucking out of Surrey, B.C., got into Calgary just before the storm hit there, but not before he ran into some pretty hairy stuff between Lethbridge and Brooks.
“We went through that thunder and everything,” he told Truck West, “and the wind was so bad it actually lifted up the front of my truck as we were driving.”
Haigh was buttoned up in his cab at the northeast Calgary Husky Truck Stop, accompanied by his wife and two young kids, when Truck West caught up with him. He said he had no idea when he’d be allowed back on the road, but was hoping it would be “either late tonight or tomorrow.”
Fortunately, his load of 44,000 lbs of Superstore flour was nice and dry in his trailer.
Another driver at the same Husky, who didn’t want his or his company’s name used, said he was trying to get to Cranbrook, B.C. but was stuck on the east side of Calgary because of the highway closures to the west.
Darcy Reed, who hauls crude oil for Mesono Holdings of Vulcan, Alta., was returning from a trip to Rimby when Truck West caught up with him at the Road King Truck Stop in southeast Calgary. He hadn’t had problems getting home so far, but was worried the situation might change.
“There’s only one bridge left to go south,” he said, referring to the situation on Hwy. 2 between Calgary and High River, “and if it goes out then I’ll be stuck. All the rest of them are closed.” Reed expected to get home okay – he had stopped at Road King for breakfast and to catch up on the news – but he noted his company has five trucks and the flooding has caused “all kinds of chaos for us because two of them are supposed to be going to Drumheller and they can’t get there because all the bridges are closed.”
Reed said it’s critical to get the crude moving with all possible dispatch because it’s “like milking cows; it just keeps producing and you have no choice but to haul the stuff. If you don’t get it out of there then you have to shut the wells down and if you do that it’s a huge (deal) to restart them.”
A veteran of 35 years behind the wheel, Reed said that Hwy. 2 south of Calgary was a sight to behold on Thursday night when he headed out toward Rimby.
“There were places I’d never seen flooded before. There was so much water it was running over number 2 highway for probably six, eight hours last night.”
Yet not all of southern Alberta was floating as of Friday morning. According to Dean Paisley of Lethbridge Truck Terminals, that city was coping well. Paisley reported that the river hadn’t yet reached beyond any of the high water levels they experience normally every spring, but he noted that “as a precaution, the Fort Whoop Up has cleaned out the artifacts, renting a trailer, and the Helen Shuler Nature Centre also rented a trailer to move out displays, etc.”
Paisley said water was being released from the Old Man Dam starting Thursday afternoon around 2 p.m., but “we are able to take the flow.” On the other hand, “the houses that are along the river side have not been evacuated but are on close watch,” he said.
Disasters tend to bring out the best in people, and it appears the trucking industry is rising to the occasion as much as it can. Don Wilson, executive director of the Alberta Motor Transport Association told TruckWest that “some of the Edmonton carriers have been asked to come and assist the southern areas any way that they can,” and noted that, with the western route closed, “it will definitely effect just-in-time deliveries and there are some trucks that are stuck on a piece of road with nowhere to go because it’s washed out on both ends.”
Wilson noted that, as past experience shows, “the longer this drags out, all of us consumers will be affected through a possible shortage of goods and probably higher prices at some point.”
Dan Duckering, of Red Deer’s Duckerings Transport, said his Edmonton manager spent Friday in a truck, “running a load of emergency supplies down to the Calgary region,” and said that several of his Calgary staff have been evacuated from their homes and “we are finding ways to support them and their families.”
Duckering said his team has continued to work at providing service to any customers who are still open for business, while “also dealing with their own personal realities. Obviously we cannot access Canmore and any of our service points west of there; however, we are making plans to ensure our customers there receive the service they need as quickly as possible.”
He also noted that the company is working with Alberta Health Services to ensure emergency supplies get through “by meeting their helicopter which will take supplies to the Hospital in Banff. And we are already working in Red Deer to ensure we are prepared to respond appropriately as the situation continues to develop. As areas begin to be evacuated and the sandbagging efforts continue to build, our team is prepared to help out in any way.”
The rivers were expected to crest sometime on Friday, and if that happens the waters should start to retreat somewhat, leaving a wet and muddy mess for thousands to cope with. Only then will a true picture of the damage be known.
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