Flood of support

Lessons learned from the floods of 2013

fejssWhen images of Fort McMurray in flames swept through the media late on May 3, I was instantly reminded of the floods of 2013.

As the sun shone down us the afternoon of June 20th, 2013, a sense of denial and disbelief was prevalent. Friends and neighbours joked about the evacuation orders and shook their heads at the thought of evacuating.

But as the City woke up in the wee hours of June 21, the grim reality set in. Much of Calgary and southern Alberta was underwater. Downtown was shutdown, our bridges were impassable. Over 80,000 people had been evacuated and didn’t know when they would be able to return home.

I remember walking down from Park Hill to the lights at 38th Ave and Elbow Drive at 6 am.  The total silence and eeriness permeating up from the rushing water was powerful and surreal.

As I walked, the silence lifted. People started emerging from out of nowhere. Over the next few days, more and more people came. Without really knowing where to start or what to do, they got to work.

Trucks loaded with pumps drove in to ground zero, strangers with rubber boots and gloves started showing up and pitching in. If they couldn’t cart the debris away, they showed up with water and sandwiches.

Families and young children from all parts of the city came with snow shovels, to scrape the mud and slop off the sidewalks.

The amazing sense of cooperation and community lifted the spirits of those impacted.

But as the city and the world moved on to the next disaster, the next big story, those who lived in the flooded communities or those who had businesses destroyed had to find a new normal.

Unfortunately for many, this involved working with shoddy contractors, fly-by-night operations, and a number of people trying to make a quick buck.

The Alec Williams Construction team was on the scene immediately to help clients in Elbow Park, Roxboro and Rideau. And as we helped rebuild, we heard horror stories of neighbours needing to rip out thousands of dollars of hastily done “renovations”, of drywall going up too quickly over still saturated materials, of skipped steps and building code violations.

Consequently, the rebuilding is not complete and the recovery goes on but in a very quiet way that is only known on the streets and in the neighbourhoods that were once covered in flood waters.

And because of this – because of some of my disreputable counterparts in the home renovation business – I worry for Fort McMurray. I worry for people who have already suffered. I don’t want them to be taken advantage of.

So I’d like to offer my guidance and knowledge to those in need:

  1. If you are in Calgary and still struggling with rebuilding, call us. I will visit your home and offer my personal guidance.
  2. If you know someone needing help in Fort McMurray, please have them call me. I will guide them through how best to find a good contractor and provide my thoughts on how not to be taken advantage of.