Flood reflections: Gord Gillies returns to the site of the Elbow Drive berm – Calgary

On June 20th, 2013, Global News anchor Gord Gillies reported live from Elbow Drive, where crews were building a berm to protect homes from the rising Elbow River. Entire communities along the river had been ordered to evacuate.

One year later, he reflects on his experience.

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We arrived at the Safeway parking lot on Elbow Drive about 3 p.m., ready to set up for our ‘live’ broadcast.  It was already a beehive of activity. Dump truck after truck after truck rolled in along Elbow as city workers were scrambling to build a berm. It was amazing to see how fast they zipped in and out.

The berm would run from south of 5th Street to the intersection of 4th Street  and Elbow Drive, designed to be a buffer along the river.

Literally minutes after arriving, the city shut down all access to the area so we were effectively cut off.

Residents from Elbow Park, Rideau and Roxboro were milling about, watching the trucks come and go. At this point some communities were already under evacuation alerts, but there didn’t seem to be a sense of urgency from any of the homeowners we talked to.

At about 4 p.m., police officers began gathering in the parking lot. The Calgary Police Service bike team was on hand and even the Tactical Unit showed up for a while.  It was their job to ride into the communities, knock on doors and let people know they should get out.

This is where it started to get worrisome on a personal level. While photographer Jerry Favero and I were focused on how we would show what was going on while not creating panic – it was clear to both of us that this was getting big. It seemed like every few minutes another community was added to the ‘evac’ list, and that list was starting to include the downtown.

We did several live ‘hits’ into the Early News at 5 to set the scene. By the time the News Hour began at 6, the entire area was under evacuation orders.

It was really a weird feeling. Sure, the Elbow River was running high and fast, but the nasty flooding hadn’t begun yet.

One resident we talked to said the last time they were asked to evacuate, I think in 2005, they didn’t even get a drop of water in their basement. That would not be the case this time.

After several updates into the newscast – the blockbuster:  city officials warned that up to 100 thousand people could be impacted by flooding.  When the sun came up early Friday morning on the 21st,  I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s still hard to believe.

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