City of Chestermere 2015 Flood Response Summary

    Two months have passed since our community was hit by a massive storm that brought devastating damages to many homes in Chestermere.  There are still so many people whose lives are in a state of limbo as they wait to rebuild their basements, backyards, front yards and more.  They’re still waiting to see if they will receive any financial aid to help return their lives to what used to be a state of normalcy. 

    We’re still learning about what we need to do to support those affected residents and what we need to do if this type of event were to happen again.  I told residents at the last flood resource meeting that we would have a report to the community by the third week in September because we wanted to share what exactly happened in Chestermere and some of the things we’ve learned so far. 

    It’s early days after the flooding and we’re still gathering information but please provide us with your feedback so we can continue to learn what you need from us. So many of us are redefining what normal is now without treasures from childhood, without pictures of memorable times or with a sense of unease when it rains. This summer’s events will have lasting impact in Chestermere, but by sharing our learnings and working together, we know that our community will recover and be even stronger in the days to come.

    Mayor Patricia Matthews

    Timeline of Events and Flood Response Learnings
    Submitted by the Director of Emergency Management
    Emergency

    On Sunday the July 12, 2015 the City of Chestermere experienced an event that had never before occurred in Chestermere’s history.

    July 12, 2015 6:30 a.m. – Several storm cells settled over our community and the NE of Calgary resulting in large amounts of rain and lightning storms. These storms produced four and a half inches of rain which fell in the first hour, with an additional five inches falling over the next four hours.
    * Note: A 1 in 100 year storm event for the Calgary region produces just over 1 inch (35.1mm) of rainfall in an hour (City of Calgary Stormwater Management and Design Manual).

    July 12, 2015 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – Power failures were experienced throughout Chestermere and many sump pumps failed (especially for those without generators). Both CUI (Chestermere Utilities Incorporated) and City Hall experienced telephone failures related to the power outage which made connecting with residents difficult.

    July 12, 2015 7:30 a.m. – The first of over ninety 911 calls, centered on flooding issues, were received and responded to by our Emergency Services.

    July 12, 2015 7:30 a.m. – City departments and officials were alerted to the reports of flooding and began coordinating support to affected communities.

    July 12, 2015 9:00 a.m. – Emergency Operation Centre personnel had been contacted and were beginning to coordinate the City’s response. While there was flooding all around our City the majority of the damage reported was on the West side. Communication to residents began through Alberta Emergency Alerts, the City’s website, social media accounts and users signed up to receive email or text notifications. Communication with external stakeholders such as CUI, our designated evacuation centres, the City of Calgary, the Province and other partners began.
    July 12, 2015 9:00 a.m. to roughly 4:00 p.m. – EOC personnel continued to assess resources that were needed and being offered to affected communities. The Rocky View Fire Department arrived to assist with pumping and aiding stranded motorists in flooded intersections. Community Peace Officers, RCMP and Public Works staff were continually dispatched to high priority areas to help with road closures and diversions. The City requested that Calgary area media to share information as another effort to reach our residents with updates.

    July 12, 2015 5:00 pm on July 12th – The majority of roadways were drained and drivable, and CUI worked with all groups to remove water from areas most impacted by the flooding.

    Monday July 13th- Chestermere Area Youth and Community Development Society (Synergy) began coordinating organizations and groups offering to help flood affected residents. This coordination continued for several weeks.

    Volunteers were deployed to hand-deliver resource contact information flyers to affected neighbourhoods.

    The City held its first press conference with regional media. Updates about the City’s response continued on the City’s communication channels.

    The Emergency Management Director began preparing paperwork to submit to the Disaster Relief Program staff and calls were made to Provincial officials to update them on Chestermere’s situation.

    CUI and the City coordinated the delivery of neighbourhood garbage bins for flood affected materials. The City of Calgary was contacted about a reduction in tippage fees for those bins.

    Tuesday July 14th- Another rain storm hit Chestermere and again caused flooding in some areas as hail clogged catch basins.

    CUI staff worked to connect pumps and hoses to drain severely affected storm ponds and emergency staff assisted with any new flooding reports. Public Works and CUI staff worked hard to unclog the catch basins as quickly as possible.

    The City continued with its flood response efforts as detailed above and began offering free inspections to affected residents. A list of available resources, tips and contact information was made available on the City’s website.

    Wednesday, July 15 – Monday July 20: Emergency Operations Center staff continued to meet, ensure storm ponds were being drained, coordinate resources needed for affected communities, share updates with the community and assess potential risks (including the potential of additional rainfall).

    The City coordinated street sweeping (with additional support from the City of Calgary) to clear debris from the road and prevent additional catch basin blockages. In preparation for the potential of more rainfall, the City asked the Western Irrigation District to lower the lake level to be able to accept more stormwater runoff. The City also made sandbags and placed them around some of the most affected areas, and offered them free to residents.

    The City coordinated free cleaning kits and supplied to residents and began asking residents to report their damage to flood@chestermere.ca in order to collect statistics to include with the application to the Disaster Recovery Program.

    Assessment of Damages: In addition to flooding of homes and property, the community experienced structural damage, landscaping damage, vehicle loss and driveway/pavement damage. Damage to community amenities included Anniversary Park, the Bike Park and Kinniburgh Park and the loss of many trees. Thankfully no serious injuries or loss of life occurred as a result of the flooding.

    Learnings

    Although Emergency Operations Centre training and disaster training is up-to-date and ongoing at the City of Chestermere, these are some of the identified areas we are examining as to how we can improve from this experience:

    Public Communication
    Changes already taking place:
    • We are exploring how the City can improve our communications to residents, businesses, our staff and our partners during an event such as this.
    • If another event like this were to take place, we could set up a dedicated phone and email line more quickly to assist affected residents with a coordinated response.
    As part of the continued learnings, we are reviewing and seeking input on the following:
    • Was the frequency of notifications appropriate?
    • How can we improve our phone availability (especially during a power outage)?
    • How can we make better use of non-digital communication tools (e.g. road signs, notice boards or posters) to deliver information?
    • How can we better communicate to our residents during a power outage?
    • Is there a mechanism we missed for receiving or delivering information?
    • Are there better ways provide affected residents the information they need?
    • Can we get expert information about what happened and why to the community sooner?

    Power Infrastructure
    Changes already taking place:
    • We are reviewing the ways we can combat power outages and telephone failures and keep residents as well as external resources informed of events. In conversations with Fortis we now know that another power substation is planned to provide an additional power source and redundancy in the system. Plans are underway to upgrade line connections starting in 2016-17 as well.
    As part of the continued learnings, we are reviewing and seeking input on the following:
    • Is there potential for a backup system that can be put into place for power outages?
    • Do our partners in power delivery have any backup systems planned for the future?

    Storm Water Management
    While the learnings around storm water are on-going, we’re confident that the system is designed properly. No system in Alberta is designed to handle the amount of water Chestermere received in such a short period of time.
    Changes already taking place:
    • We are in process of completing a review of the City storm water management policy to see if further development will significantly affect the current system.
    • We are also working with our partners at CUI to ensure that City development continues to meet or exceed storm water requirements for our community.
    As part of the continued learnings, we are reviewing and seeking input on the following:
    • Does our current system meet the needs to address a 1 in one hundred year storm event?
    • How can the system handle emergency overflow events above the 1:100 year threshold?
    • Is our developer-built infrastructure meeting our needs?

    City/CUI Operational Response
    Changes already taking place:
    • We are investigating improvements so that the two entities become as efficient as possible.
    • We have updated key contact information between the two organizations and provided all relevant contact information for our partners as well.
    • We are creating a procedure that allows easier access to City/CUI personnel during flooding events so that efficient and timely connections can be made.
    As part of the continued learnings, we are reviewing and seeking input on the following:
    • Where can we improve efficiencies in our processes and ensure responses are streamlined?
    • How we will ensure efficient contact between both entities and do we have a place to note when key contact people are away?

    Mitigation
    Changes already taking place:
    • We will hold joint departmental meetings to discuss areas of mitigation opportunity.
    As part of the continued learnings, we are reviewing and seeking input on the following:
    • What can we do to reduce the impact of another similar event?

    Resilience
    Changes already taking place:
    • We will assess how resilient we are as a city not only in an emergency but when faced with other challenges, financial, business, economic etc.
    As part of the continued learnings, we are reviewing and seeking input on the following:
    • In the future, how can we better manage potential risks to the community?
    • What kinds of resources do we need to support families in our community affected by future events like this?

    Additional Updates
    Comprehensive Report
    The report provided is only a summary of preliminary findings. A comprehensive, detailed report of the events of July 12-20th is being created by our Emergency Management Agency in conjunction with all of our partners and service providers. This extensive report may take several months to compile and then will be submitted to the Province for their records. It is not needed for the Disaster Relief Program but will help in educating others about our experience.

    Information on who was affected and the level of damage encountered is still being received from residents. Thank you to all those who came forward and also provided much needed information/feedback at the Information Evening and Flood Fair events.

    DRP Application Status
    At the time of this update, the City of Chestermere had submitted an application to the DRP for financial assistance. The DRP committee sends the application forward to Provincial Cabinet for approval (we anticipate this will be in early October 2015) and if the program is approved the DRP then sets dates and times when they will open reception centres in Chestermere to receive residential/commercial applications (potentially early November 2015). The approval of this assistance would enable residents to come forward and submit a claim for flood damages not covered by their own house insurance. Each individual request will be dealt with by representatives of the DRP as it is their responsibility to distribute funds.

    It is the City’s intention to involve our residents as much as possible in the coming months. Further information sessions are being planned and updates on the DRP process will be posted on the City website. Thank you to all those who have provided information and support so far. We will be continually working to get our residents back on their feet and exploring every avenue to ensure we become better prepared should a similar event ever occur in our community.