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a photo of the stampede park entrance completely flooded with water covering the entire stretch of road
Gavin Young | Calgary Herald

Sandbags and Shovels: Cochrane Rose to the Challenge of a Flooding Crisis

In 2013 when floods threatened, the Cochrane community rallied together, with hundreds of people volunteering to sandbag high-risk areas

Given how dry it’s been, it’s hard to remember when there was too much water. But that’s what happened not so long ago.

In 2013, the town of Cochrane faced a severe flood caused by rising water levels in the Bow River. The mayor at the time, Truper McBride, recalls that nobody was fully prepared for the magnitude of the flood.

They had seen concerns about the amount of rainfall in the forecasts, so he asked the community to help by sandbagging in high-risk areas. 

“Within an hour, we had literally hundreds of people lining up, and waiting to shovel and get sandbags. So it was just a tremendous response from the community,” McBride told The Cochrane Times.

McBride remembers watching the water levels rise and worrying about the Highway 22 bridge over the Bow River. He had to cross the bridge that evening and saw that the water level was extremely high.

According to McBride, the flood covered the entire floodway and looked like a lake or ocean’s edge. 

“We ended up with crowds at the bank of the river, looking up and down, so the concern at the time was that there were too many onlookers going into an area that we’re not certain is safe yet,” explained McBride. 

Over the next few days, town staff inspected the town’s infrastructure and natural slopes for damage. The rainfall in some parts of Alberta was as high as 200 millimetres daily.

Although Cochrane was spared from the worst, they requested voluntary evacuation for low-lying communities and prioritized moving people out of the floodway.

Fortunately, Cochrane had no damage to residential houses, loss of life, or injury.

residents of cochrane working together to create sand barriers to protect the town from the 2013 alberta flood
Residents of Cochrane working together to create sand barriers during the 2013 Alberta flood | CBC News

The 2013 flood resulted in approximately $1 million in repairs for the town, mainly focusing on fixing banks and pathways. Since then, Cochrane has worked on flood recovery and erosion control projects.

Two ongoing projects include relocating a pathway in Cochrane Ranch along the Jumping Pound and the reclamation of a pond at the water treatment plant.

Compared to other communities in the Bow and Elbow River watersheds, Cochrane fared relatively well during the flood. But, they recognize the importance of sharing information and learning from other communities’ experiences.

Drew Hyndman, the executive director of development and infrastructure services for the town, emphasizes the value of knowledge exchange among regional partners.

“Reflecting on the ten years, lots of learning, and we hope to be in a much better position should something like this happen in the future,” said Hyndman.

Cochrane participates in initiatives like the Calgary Metropolitan Regional Board to learn best practices and better prepare for future emergencies.

The town also conducts annual emergency exercises to keep the staff well-prepared and hopes to be in a much better position to respond to similar situations.

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