VIDEO: 100,000 to be evacuated from Calgary floods; downtown emptied

Calgary – home to 1.1 million people – is empty downtown along the Bow and Elbow Rivers and schools are closed due to heavy rains, flooding.

Downtown Calgary and the Stampede grounds – and the Scotiabank Saddledome – are underwater

100,000 Calgarians can expect to be evacuated from their homes in low-lying regions of Western Canada’s second-largest city, as heavy rain and floods force neighbourhoods to higher ground and the downtown core empties.

“The situation in the city is evolving as officials try to assess how high water levels will rise, so expect changes as the day goes on,” reported CBC News.

(UPDATE: The Globe and Mail reports that four people are feared dead in southern Alberta – 2:24 p.m. PST)

Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi, said the worst is yet to come, and said this 2013 event is beyond comparison with the city’s last dangerous flood in 2005.

“(I have) spent a lot of time on the Bow and Elbow Rivers and I have never seen the river that high or that fast,” he said at a news conference Friday morning. “The Bow River, when I saw it, looked like you were looking at an ocean. And I was there standing on that same bridge in 2005 and this is no comparison.”

Eight years ago, floods damaged 40,000 Calgary homes and forced 1,500 residents to evacuate.

This year, though, estimates are dwarfing the 2005 event. Calgary’s downtown – and any neighbourhoods along the Bow and Elbow rivers – have been emptied. All schools in the city’s vulnerable core have been closed, as well as Catholic schools in nearby areas Airdrie, Cochrane, and Chestermere.

“It was quiet,” said Caitlin Matthews, a Calgary resident who lives downtown and was evacuated from her building Friday morning. “Normally, on Fridays, there are cars everywhere.

“By the Elbow (river), my friends is on the first floor, and his condo is completely in water.

Matthews said her apartment was added to the evacuation list and the building’s power was turned off this morning. She’s now staying at her parents’ house in Aspen, southwest of Calgary, with 10 other people who are staying over.

“The grocery store was crazy,” she said. “We waited in line for 90 minutes… All the bread was gone, there was zero water.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled to Calgary today, to meet with Alberta premier Alison Redford and tour the damaged areas in southern Alberta.

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