Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hail and High Water

Thursday, June 20th, was stormier than the preceding day. It started, if I remember correctly, in the late afternoon, when the sky clouded. It wasn’t overcast, which may have promised steady drizzle, but came on in glowering banks of clouds that reached high into the sky. Another thunderstorm was in the offing. Lightning flashed repeatedly and the thunder was making the cats nervous. But they put up with it well. Then the sky grew darker and hail started falling. It fell hard and faster, and was the worst hailstorm I’d experienced.

We were safe enough in the house. I’ve been here for two and a half years and the basement hasn’t leaked yet. I’m told that concrete made before about 1960 is superior to that which came after (I wouldn’t be surprised, since most of what came after was inferior), and so my house (built circa 1955) would be unlikely to flood. In any case, I wasn’t worried, though the ferocity of the rain and hail overflowed the eavestroughs, and sent water over the gutters of the roof as if it were coming out of a tap. The picture below looks as though the windows are steamed up. They aren't; that's how fast the precipitation fell.

The cats did quite well, standing up to the storm. Tungsten was on the bed at the time, trying to catch a little sleep. She woke and, though maintaining her usual attitude of indifference, certainly didn’t try to go back to sleep. Josie hid under the armchair again, while the boys, who were steady during the thunder, couldn’t abide the hail, and hurried downstairs. I followed them after a few minutes and urged them to come up. Renn did, hastening into the bedroom, while Tucker followed a few minutes later.

Bear-Bear seemed fascinated by the storm for the most part, and watched the hail fall. He is a brave fellow and seems not to be easily unnerved.

The hail lasted for quite a while, as hailstorms go. The rain that fell with it came down so quickly that it didn’t drain fast enough to keep the streets from flooding; I expect the volume of hail may have choked the drains temporarily. A small, rushing brook formed at the edge of the street outside my house, a brook which eventually fed a large lake at the end of my drive-way.

The hailstorm, but was just a precursor to the storm that followed. This one dropped rain alone, though it accompanied it with lightning and thunder. People I spoke with afterward were surprised at how long the lightning continued to light up the night. I think it was still flashing at about two o’clock the next morning. Thunderstorms don’t usually last five hours; they settle into rainstorms long before that.

This storm seemed to stretch across most of southern Alberta. It was still sprinkling the next morning here in Lethbridge, but farther north, it continued raining all the next day. River levels rose everywhere, particularly in parts of Calgary, and in Canmore and High River. The last named town has been evacuated in its entirety; I’ve not lived through a storm which did such a thing. Usually, parts of a community are emptied, as with some neighbourhoods in Calgary. High River, though, lived up to its name and the stream that passes through it, the Highwood River, engulfed most of the town.

Lethbridge itself was relatively untroubled by events; we were fortunate. The Old Man River (yes, that’s its actual name) rose and threatened to cut off the newer west-side from the rest of the city, but that did not actually happen. News reports state that southern Alberta was badly hit. If a map of the province were divided horizontally into five bands, most of the damage will have occurred in the fourth most southerly band; in other words, the disaster to southern Alberta was strongest north of me and my cats.

Seven years ago, a report on the dangers of flooding, commissioned by the provincial government, recommended a ‘flood mitigation strategy’ to prevent such catastrophes. The government balked at spending the $300,000,000 needed to implement the plan. Now, three times that amount is being set aside to help recover from the floods. If anyone knows of a government in the last fifty years that has acted, rather than merely reacted, let me know.

Anyway, that’s my political diatribe for now. My cats are wondering where the food is. They know what’s important.


  1. That looked bad enough, I can't imagine having to get out right away and then losing one's house to a raging torrent.

    We get the occasional downpour that overwhelms the sewer systems, floods downtown business, homes, etc. but nothing on that scale--and I hope we never see anything on that scale here.

    BTW, I recall that when the new univ. athletic centre was being built, a few years ago, they had finished most of it, but we had a bad storm that flooded the gym, the entire floor had to be replaced.

    Of course, my basement leaks when the rain hits the back, where the unit joins the neighbours' unit, so I'd have feet of water down there in a true flood. Ugh.

  2. That is pretty amazing as about on the same day we had a real drencher here in PA USA

  3. That's some serious water. We're glad to see that you stayed high and dry.

  4. Good to hear you came through the storm okay. It's truly unfortunate so many did not. I was on a cruise a few years ago with a couple from High River. She was rescued from their home in a front end loader, he had to climb through a car window to safety when he was met by a wall of water. I expect their home is lost. Thankfully they are both safe.

  5. Glad to hear all are safe and sound in The Windy City (Canada Edition). I'm surprised at how brave your cats are because all five of ours found their own little part of the world to hide in (or under) until it was over. No storm chasers in our bunch!