MEDICINE HAT, AB — It was four years ago this week when the South Saskatchewan River spilled its banks.
Mayor Ted Clugston remembers just how high the water rose, nearly touching the Finlay Bridge.
“I have a lot of high school and elementary school kids come through here all the time, and I always point to the bridge over there,” he said, pointing towards the bridge from City Hall. “The water was touching and look, everything you see was underwater.
It may be hard to imagine, standing along River Road and watching the river now.
A lot has changed since then to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished here in the city of Medicine Hat and the courage that we showed, moving forward without the province,” Clugston said.
The flood in 2013 forced nearly 10,000 people from their homes.
Water swept through and destroyed entire neighbourhoods.
Every year, around this time, the memories come flooding back.
“I think people think that we were reckless by approving the berms without the province coming on board, but the province has come on board,” Clugston added.
He knew the city needed to take action and berms weren’t going to be enough.
“We’ve updated our infrastructure, we’ve made it more resilient. We’ve integrated Notify Me Now into the city. But we still continue to test our plans, we still continue to build our plans,” said Merrick Brown, director of emergency management for the city.
Brown, like Clugston, is confident that even if history were to repeat itself, the river wouldn’t have nearly the impact it did four years ago.
“The city has measures in place that we didn’t have necessarily in 2013, so we are prepared,” Brown said.
“We’ve become, kind of, the go-to municipality when it comes to floods,” Clugston added.
Berm construction is still ongoing, now in the final stages.
Clugston said it’s now a waiting game, waiting for the river to rise to prove the city is safe.
“I don’t want a full flood, but a half flood,” he said. “But you can’t use the word flood ‘cause it doesn’t flood.”
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