Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Flood

I remember standing on my 21st balcony overlooking the Bow River on the morning of June 20th. The weather forecast a day or two before had called for heavy rains in the mountains but on this particular morning Calgary was enjoying a warm, sunny summer day.

Hours later when I took a break from work and looked over the river once more, the water level had already risen a couple of feet.  The bike path under the Louise Bridge had become submerged under the grey, turbid water. Not until several hours later would I realize what was unfolding before me.

I picked up my partner Jen after work as I usually do so we could walk home together. Instead of completing the short walk home with Jen, I took a detour with my camera to check on the river. It was pretty evident when I got to the river that this was going to be a significant event.

Calgary Flood

I was absolutely astounded by what I was seeing. I shot for a couple of hours until I filled my memory card and went home for a break.

Back home I dumped my memory card, ate some food and started pouring through the images. During that time I caught up on the local news. The predictions were starting to look grim. The water was still rising and they were forecasting the crest around 5AM in the morning. Still though, the significance of what was unfolding had not sunk in.

Just after 11PM I took this shot and immediately my perception changed.

Calgary Flood

I posted the shot to Flickr and to Twitter. I got a big response, fast! It suddenly dawned on me that I had to get out there and capture all that I could. I packed up my gear, brought a headlamp and rain protection and left in to the night. Walking only a few blocks from my house I could not believe what I was seeing. I snapped pictures like crazy.

Calgary Flood

There was this uneasy calm. Streets were vacant. Sections of the city began to go dark as power was shut down. I kept trekking on foot, meeting fellow photographers on the way, stopping frequently to grab shots.

I shot until I was nearly exhausted. Hot, tired and thirsty I walked in the door around 2:30AM. I stayed up until about 4AM posting shots online. The response to my images was overwhelming. It was obvious to me that others were transfixed to the events unfolding.

I was up early the next morning to evacuate our car from the underground parking. Fortunately for us, moving the car was the extent of our inconvenience. We didn't experience any flooding and our power stayed on during the entire emergency. We were lucky.

Days later I was volunteering in some of the hardest hit areas. Shovelling mud out of basements, lugging water soaked carpets and drywall to the street. It was gruelling work but I was constantly buoyed by the outpouring of support by fellow volunteers and the community at large. It was wonderful to see the community come together to support those in need.

Calgary Flood

Keep shooting.

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