Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Red Deer River levels start to drop
Last Updated Tue, 21 Jun 2005 16:23:11 EDT
CBC News
People living in Drumheller, Alberta, are breathing a sigh of relief after the Red Deer River crested just below the tops of a hastily topped up dike.
"A really big relief," Stan Donias, one of more than 3,000 people forced from their homes over the weekend, said of the Tuesday afternoon development.
"It's peaked and coming back down. I hope the wall holds until it's done."
Emergency officials said water levels have dropped about 25 centimetres since the river crested early Tuesday morning.
Some people may be allowed back in their homes as early as Wednesday, although about 25 houses did suffer some water damage.
As many as 800 volunteers worked around the clock Sunday and Monday to build up the dike that lines the river, adding about two metres of earth to the berm.
Alberta Environment estimates that the river, which crested about 1 a.m., came about five centimetres from the lowest edge of the dikes. A logjam on a tributary north of the Alberta town prevented the water from rising higher and pouring through the town.
Town officials say it's too early to determine when more than 3,000 people, who were ordered evacuated from their homes, will be allowed to return. By late Monday, about 25 homes in the area had been flooded.
The flooding across the province has led to the deaths of at least three people. Two men died in separate accidents in the Calgary area when their vehicles crashed into swollen rivers. A teenager, who is believed to have been near a footbridge that was washed out, is also missing.
Truck plunge kills driver
Meanwhile, pedestrians who had gathered on the Morrin Bridge to view the flooded river are being blamed for triggering a fatal truck crash overnight near Drumheller.
Police say the truck plunged into the river as it attempted to dodge cars that had slowed down to avoid the pedestrians.
"The cause is directly related to pedestrians on the bridge," read an RCMP news release, which said ignoring safety warnings places "human lives at risk."
RCMP say the truck had been travelling at about 100 km/h when it came over a hill. The vehicle hit a car, then slammed into the side of the bridge, knocking out two girders and plunging into the water, killing the driver.
In Calgary, officials threatened to ration water if people didn't start limiting the amount they use. The Elbow River spilled over its banks on the weekend in Calgary, forcing more than 1,500 people from their homes and prompting a mandatory water-rationing order.
The city has asked residents to voluntarily conserve water because the two water treatment plants are having trouble keeping up with demand. The river water coming into the plants is so full of silt and debris that the facilities are struggling to produce enough clean water.
In Edmonton, emergency officials have said the city is no longer at risk of flooding as the North Saskatchewan River crested overnight and water levels have stabilized. The high water point reached 8.7 metres, which is nearly a metre lower than expected.
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein has estimated the cost of damage from the flood is going to be hundreds of millions of dollars.