After two weeks of almost unbelievable community rallying and super-human efforts to reopen the city, the rains struck again. Last night's deluge brought flash floods through some of the hardest hit neighbourhoods, which had only just finished cleaning up from the rivers spilling their banks two weeks earlier. The saturated ground simply cannot handle any excess.
It's a cruel blow, but knowing the resilience of Calgarians, it's a temporary setback.
The past fortnight has been nothing short of mind-boggling. Two weeks after the floods left the heavily used south line of the LRT a twisted mess of steel running through a flooded tunnel beside a destroyed bridge, the trains were running again. Commuters into downtown were welcomed back by a sign proclaiming downtown Calgary open for business.
Of course this has always been a volunteer city, but this past fortnight has seen volunteerism gone wild. When the Calgary Folk Festival asked for 250 volunteers for what they described as hard hazardous labour restoring Prince's Island Park in time for this year's festival, the event registration page was full in under four hours. Rubber boots, work gloves and masks have become the new black.
The filthy back-breaking work continues, but the focus is moving toward rebuilding. In countless creative ways, people are making a difference. Not everybody can shovel sludge out of basements for days on end, but they can make welcome home cards for displaced seniors, or buy - euphemism alert - hygienic products for the Drop In Centre, that were lost in the evacuation. They can hand out lunches and they can take in laundry. And hooboy, can they raise money.
Kids are selling lemonade and corporations are cutting cheques for millions of dollars. You cannot walk down the street without tripping over a flood relief concert and community fundraiser days are legion. The Spousal Unit is about to have a whole new wardrobe with all the flood relief tee-shirts I have been buying from artists who are capturing the zeitgeist on cotton.
Rain storm set-back aside, Calgarians are now looking outward toward other communities that have been hit even harder. Buses of volunteers are being dispatched to High River, where the entire town is decimated, where there really are no untouched neighbourhoods like there are in Calgary. Relief efforts are turning toward the Morley, Siksika, and Stoney Nakoda First Nations communities who need help rebuilding. And still somehow, there is time to Stampede. Forget the city that never sleeps, these are the volunteers who never sleep.