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Alberta residents flee flood


Last Updated: June 19, 2010 8:56pm

CALGARY - Hundreds of Medicine Hat residents are fleeing their homes as waterways in the southern Alberta city swell, threatening to flood low-lying neighbourhoods.

Some 230 households received voluntary evacuation notices Saturday afternoon while the city 260 km southeast of Calgary declared a state of emergency.

Water from the South Saskatchewan River and overflowing creeks have spilled their banks and continue to rise, said fire Chief Ron Robinson.

"By mid-Monday afternoon is the point at which it's anticipated that it may start to recede but there's also another weather system moving in," he said.

"Right now we're seeing flooding in lower elevation areas where the tributaries enter Medicine Hat and in areas that are most likely to see flooding there are voluntary evacuations."

Robinson said water at the confluence of the South Saskatchewan and local creeks is flowing at about 2,800 cubic metres per second, far more than the summer average of about 300 to 500 metres per second.

Emergency officials and the Canadian Red Cross are looking after the needs of evacuees who are unable to find shelter with friends and family.

As Medicine Hat braces for the worst, heavy flood waters that swept through nearby Irvine forcing 150 from their homes are beginning to recede, but officials remain cautious.

Lutz Perchon, manager of Cypress County, said ranchers and rural residents along the Seven Persons Creek southwest of Medicine Hat are seeing dangerously high waters.

"One rancher said he almost lost 400 head of cattle because the creek overflowed we're trying to drive around and warn people but there are a lot of small acreages and ranches," he said.

He said some evacuated residents are being allowed to briefly return to their homes to get belongings but the county remains under a state of emergency.

Elsewhere, high levels of sediment in the water in Fort Macleod prompted officials to impose a boil water order.

A group of provincial cabinet ministers and MLAs, including Deputy Premier Doug Horner, Environment Minister Rob Renner and Agriculture Minister Jack Hayden, toured the hardest hit areas Saturday afternoon.

After 150 mm of rain fell between Wednesday and Friday, the forecast called for a 30% chance of showers and the risk of a thunderstorm overnight Saturday with a sunny Sunday and more rain on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Trans-Canada Hwy. remains closed between Medicine Hat and the Saskatchewan border due to flooding, said Redcliff RCMP Cpl. Chris Zanidean.

"Nothing's getting through there right now," he said, noting vehicles are being given the option to re-route to Hwy. 41 through Oyen into Saskatchewan or wait until the Trans-Canada re-opens.

Zanidean said the RCMP helicopter is monitoring highway conditions and it will remain closed until travel is deemed safe.

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