Engineering | Roadbuilding

June 26, 2013

Consulting engineers overcome mudslides at national conference

Lake Louise, Alta.

Canadian consulting engineers recently held their annual conference in Lake Louise, Alberta, despite some delegates being unable to attend due to extreme weather.

“We are going to have a bit of a challenging day. There have been mudslides and road closures, due to heavy rains,” said Murray Thompson, the out-going chair of the Association of Consulting Engineers (ACEC) - Canada.

“So, a number of our delegates are not able to be here because they are on the wrong side of the mudslide. And, some of our sponsors could not get here.”

Thompson made this opening statement to a group of consulting engineers on June 20, as they began their annual general meeting called Summit 2013, at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta.

In the early hours of June 20, the banks of Cougar Creek, which runs through Canmore, were undermined and destabilized by heavy rains. The town declared a state of local emergency when the creek overflowed and flooded the Trans-Canada Highway, which was closed east and westbound.

There were a number of other road closures, including Highway 1A, and travel in the area was not recommended. A mud slide also closed Highway 1 near Norquay.

As a result of this extreme weather, at least 30 members of the ACEC, spouses, conference speakers and sponsors couldn’t reach Summit 2013.

They had to travel from the Calgary airport along Highway 1 to get to Lake Louise.

Canmore is about 100 kilometres west of Calgary.

“(ACEC) staff are working with Parks Canada to get people here as soon as possible,” said Thompson.

“We are working on a Plan B, which could include video or Skyping. We can only control what we control. The good news is no one has been hurt. We will soldier on the best we can.”

According to ACEC staff, about 180 delegates and spouses were expected to attend the conference.

However, there were about 40 unclaimed name tags at the ACEC registration table.

The hotel also faced some challenges.

“We take care of our guests, first and foremost. Beyond that, we are making sure they are staying informed and are comfortable, as things progress,” said Lori Cote, regional director of public relations for Fairmont Hotels.

“We are making sure the operation keeps going and waiting for an update from highways and Parks Canada.”

No deliveries could be made to the hotel and guests of the hotel were asked to conserve sheets and towels.

Some hotel staff were also unable to get to work because of the road closures.

Showers and thunderstorms, which had developed on June 18, changed into rain over Southwestern Alberta.

According to Alberta Environment, an intense low pressure system brought 80 mm to 280 mm of precipitation to an area between Waterton Park and Banff, from June 19 -22.

Weather stations in the upper Sheep, Elbow and Bow River regions recorded amounts of up to 340 mm, during the same period.

In Canmore, the power went out, people living along Cougar Creek were evacuated, and sewage was reported to be leaking into a number of basements in the southern part of the town.

Emergency evacuation centres were established for residents at the local civic centre and Canmore Collegiate High School. All public schools were closed.

The City of Calgary activated the Municipal Emergency Plan and the Emergency Operations Centre was opened at about 8:30 a.m. on June 20, due to the anticipated heavy rains and flows on the Elbow and Bow Rivers.

A State of Local Emergency was declared in Calgary about an hour later and flood response plans were implemented, with the deployment of sandbags and temporary dams at key locations to protect property and infrastructure.

About 100,000 residents in low-lying areas of Calgary were evacuated and forced to leave their homes as communities across southern Alberta were hit with heavy rains and widespread flooding.

The downtown core was evacuated and power was cut off. It’s not yet clear when power will be restored and employees can return to work.

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