June 20th, 2013 started out no different than any other day. My husband went off to work and I packed up our two children to meet some friends for a play date. I had heard that there was a state of emergency due to the the flooding of the High River, near our home in Alberta, Canada, but unfortunately that was common for certain parts of town during the springtime snowpack melt from the mountains west of us. Our house is half a mile from the river and is 50-years-old and had never flooded. I had absolutely no concern.
One friend was very late meeting us that morning and when she did come she told me the flooding had gotten out of control. So I took my 2-year-old son to my mother-in-law just so I could check on things. I really thought I would go somewhere in town and help sandbag or something. I was not prepared for what I saw when I got there.
The water was everywhere. I had to park at the end of the street and leave my 3-month-old daughter to wade through the water that was icy cold to get to my house. When I walked in I could hear water rushing into the basement. I went downstairs and at that point there was at least 3 feet of water in our basement and it was rising quickly. I went back upstairs and retrieved our two pugs. I took them one by one back to my truck and then quickly gathered some clothes and bedding and tried calling my husband. The cell phone towers were down. My neighbor had an old analog phone so I called and got his voice mail. All I said was "you better get home, our house is under water."
I met up with my husband at my in-laws' house and we started our trek to try and get back in. I had been through some mandatory evacuations as a teen while living in Kelowna and forest fires ripped through town. I knew as soon as they got everyone out we wouldn't be getting back in for a while. As they were starting to shut the town down, we managed to reach our house and grab a few more things, snapped some pictures and got out. At this point we had 7 1/2 feet of water in our family home. Little did I know that this was the last time I would see my house for 10 days.
We were evacuated for a total of 57 days. Ten of those were a mandatory evacuation and the rest because our house was not fit for habitation. We had trouble finding someone who would take our family as we had two dogs and a toddler who needed some space to roam. Finally we found a lovely family who had acreage and had no problems with our dogs so we bought and parked our 20' travel trailer there.
For the 10 days of mandatory evacuation every scenario ran through our minds. Our only information was coming from the media or social media. We weren't sure if we were coming home to a house that would have to be demolished -- or not. During that time we tried our best to stay positive and plan as best we could.
Finally on July 3rd we were permitted entrance back into our town. During the mandatory evacuation a group of structural engineers, police officers and utility companies had come through our house to assess it. Based on their findings they color-coded your home with either green -- no damage; yellow -- mild damage; orange -- major damage; or red -- uninhabitable. We all went to a staging area to get our "Welcome Package" and find the coding on our home. We were pretty sure that it could be red based on all the damage our home had. We sat down, we got our package and found out our house was orange! What wonderful news!
While my husband and my dad worked on our house tirelessly, I kept our kids in the trailer with my mom and tried to maintain as much normalcy as possible for two weeks. Then my parents left and it was just us and we continued to work. We knew the harder we worked together the sooner we would be back in. After 57 days we moved back into our house. We were the second house on our block to be back in!
The flood of June 2013 was the best thing that ever happened to us and has changed us so much for the better. We have now embraced a minimalist lifestyle. We've realized that our "things" aren't what makes us happy. The outpouring of love and support showed us how much we are loved during this time of great uncertainty. It has strengthened our family knowing that together there is literally nothing we can't get through.