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Bighorn communities healing

Along with Exshaw, the hamlets of Lac Des Arcs, Dead Man’s Flats and Harvie Heights have seen the effects of the intense rainfall and flooding that occurred at the end of last week.
A Lac Des Arcs property is inundated by water and mud as floodwater pours through the hamlet.
A Lac Des Arcs property is inundated by water and mud as floodwater pours through the hamlet.

Along with Exshaw, the hamlets of Lac Des Arcs, Dead Man’s Flats and Harvie Heights have seen the effects of the intense rainfall and flooding that occurred at the end of last week.

Graham Lock, president of the Lac Des Arcs community association, said Monday (June 24) his residents were in full clean-up mode after Heart Creek burst its banks.

“It’s coming along,” Lock said. “It’s just amazing how the community pulled together. People are out there helping their neighbours.”

Normally, Heart Creek is a small creek that first flows under the Trans-Canada Highway and then under a small vehicle bridge that connects the western and eastern sides of the hamlet.

But as it began to swell, Heart Creek flowed over the highway and then jumped from its normal course, rushing down Heart Rise on its way to the Bow River.

“That road was a river over a foot deep coming right down the road,” Lock said. “Along that road there were a dozen homes right in the path of that. Most of them were two feet high up in swirling water and mud and gravel.”

The floodwaters left the bridge intact, but it washed away the ground on either side of the bridge.

“It chewed out a great chunk of the bridge, which isolated the east side, isolating people. So we were forced to use the emergency exit we have and that became a mud bog, so people could not get in or out.”

The MD and Bow Kor Excavating dumped gravel along the emergency road, allowing the Cochrane Fire Department to evacuate residents to Springbank.

Homes located west of the creek and the eastern edge were untouched. Houses along Heart Rise are flood damaged and five houses located at the northern edge of the hamlet have been red carded or declared uninhabitable.

Both Heart Creek and the Bow River eroded the riverbank, undermining the five houses, one of which was in the final stages of construction.

“It now extends nearly 15 feet into the river. They lost about 30 feet of their yard. It just destroyed it so fast.”

The Lac Des Arcs bridge has been repaired and residents are returning to their homes.

At Dead Man’s Flats, Derek Ryder, a director of the Pigeon Creek Condo Association, said it was mostly good news, with some bad news for the hamlet located four kilometres east of Canmore.

Pigeon Creek swelled quickly and reports indicate Thunderstone Quarry saw heavy damage from the floodwaters.

“Thunderstone Quarry basically washed into the creek bed and a lot of material tried to go into the culvert that wouldn’t fit, like pallets and a trailer and couple of cars, so (the culvert) kept getting blocked,” Ryder said.

Part of the creek flowed along and then across the eastbound lanes, before flowing through a culvert under the westbound lanes and the across the westbound exit ramp.

Water also flowed along the eastern edge of the hamlet.

As Pigeon Creek overflowed its eastern course, it pushed up against one of the Pigeon Creek condo buildings, knocking down deck supports on two units and exposing the foundation.

“We did have the creek flowing at one point in time through our parking lot and then all of a sudden our rip rap wall failed. The moment the rip rap failed (water) started to eat away at the exposed foundation,” Ryder said.

Structurally, the building appears to be OK, he said.

“The MD wasn’t really aware of what was going on and when we informed them, then man did they move fast and it was awesome. Kudos to Rob Murray (Mountain FM) who helped me get in the touch with the MD. The MD dispatched immediately some backhoes and rip rap and were there in a couple of hours and shoring it up as best they could,” Ryder said.

Mandi Crawford, the MD’s public information officer, said construction of a temporary diversion for Pigeon Creek is underway. A permanent creek diversion will be established at a later date.

Sewer has been restored to Dead Man’s Flats, but residents are asked to restrict its use.

Harvie Heights, meanwhile, also had to take the good with the bad during the flood, according to Carolyn Montgomery, a Bighorn councillor and Harvie Heights resident.

The residential area of Harvie Heights was relatively unaffected with a few flooded basements.

“We’re very fortunate there. We didn’t lose anything. We didn’t lose our phones. Internet was functioning,” she said.

Montgomery added the hamlet’s commercial area “took a beating” with flooding and loss of potable water.

By Friday a large lake had developed in front of Harvie Heights swallowing one lane of the Trans-Canada Highway and the Harvie Heights Road. The pumphouse was nearly submerged.

A temporary water line was installed Wednesday (June 26) to get water flowing to the commercial buildings in Harvie Heights.

Montgomery said she did not think the commercial buildings were damaged.

“Not that I know of, but the water was really storming down there,” she said.

The water did damage the paved Harvie Heights trail.

North of Harvie Heights, Louis Kamenka experienced major damage to his rundle rock quarry, located two km north of the hamlet.

“Down by the red gate that is the worst it’s ever washed out. My dad put the gate in in 1954 and it’s been there ever since and it hasn’t been damaged. In 60 years it has been fine and this year it was taken out,” he said, adding the gate still stands, but the road now sits six feet below the gate.

“For nine months of the year there is no water in the creek and then in the spring usually you get two or three feet of water and I have culverts to handle that water, but this year was exceptional,” he said.

A root ball plugged one the culverts, pushing the water onto the access road washing out 300 metres of the road and dropping nearly 50 trees onto the road.

Fortunately, Kamenka said he dug a ditch across his road in anticipation of the flood. And his intuition paid off, allowing him to save 1.5 km of his road.

After nearly a week of work, Kamenka has repaired most of the damage, including a bridge in the quarry that washed out.

The Canmore-born quarry owner said this is the worst flooding he has seen in the valley.

“This is the biggest I’ve ever seen. I would say this is the most extreme flooding and Pigeon Creek — I’ve never seen it flood like that,” he said.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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