So far away…

I was going to post about a recent rip to Japan late last week but the city I live in was sent in to a local state if emergency so it didn’t happen.  Here though is my story of what happened this past weekend where I had to work while Calgary was underwater:

I was in Japan again. My second flight to Narita in a week but this time I did not enjoy it, in the least.

I was lonely. I was worried.  I was thinking of friends and family.  My home town, Calgary, Alberta in Canada is flooding. When I got my assignment the night before I left for Japan around one tenth of my city’s population had been evacuated from their homes due to the rising rivers. That is 100 000 Calgarians without a roof over their head in a torrential downpour facing flood waters. They were however not alone. Most people opened their homes to friends and family, as well as strangers. Before I went to bed the night before my flight I too had received guests. I live on high ground far from flooding but that did not make I easier to leave on Friday morning.

The stores were running out of food, water was being snatched up and lines to buy gas were long in readiness for the worst.  According to what I saw on international news reports whilst in Japan.  I had lost television, at my home, during the night before I left and power had been on and off all morning.  It was a tough drive in to the airport. The rain had created pooling on the roads as the storm sewers could not work fast enough. I was lucky. The roads I had to take were all open but one co-worker had to take a circuitous route detour around many flooded roads to make it to work.

Even though the city was in a state of local emergency the airport was still open and normalcy was maintained. The hardest part about being halfway around the world in a time zone so different from my own was obtaining information. With little Internet access I was at the mercy of my imagination and short international news blurbs.  I was able to reach family members during the wee hours of my night, their afternoon.  They had news that some of the water had receded and that the skies were finally blue. However by the end of my FaceTime session the skies has once again opened up and the state of emergency had not ended as one of the rivers had not yet crested.

I was uncertain how my city would look when I came to it. Hopefully not battered and broken as I feared it may but resilient and fostering a sense of togetherness.

My thoughts were on friends and coworkers who had lost their homes to the raging rivers. One girl I knew was living in her camper caravan with her family with t what little they were able to salvage before fleeing. Another friend was holed up in his home with his family roads to his area washed away suddenly and evacuation was impossible even when nearby sour gas pipelines leaked potentially deadly gas.  My thoughts were on the 30 000 people without power, with the crews that had been evacuated from a hotel downtown.

My company was excellent in its response.  Those evacuated were released from flying, they opened up a hanger to evacuated employee and their families providing cots and a dry, warm place to sleep. Free uniforms and other work items to those that had lost everything were donated by the company to help those affected who still wanted to come in to work. Thousands of people wanted to volunteer within hours of the emergency in the city itself. Kijiji lit up with offers of help, food trucks fed first responders and those evacuated, donations poured in from all over the country. There is a lot of work ahead.

Before landing we could see where the flood waters had been and still were.  The streets in areas still under a swath of liquid or mud. The brown landscape was disheartening and overwhelming.
I am now home and glad to be.

The flood waters are receding here in Calgary but downstream is preparing for the worst.  Some of those evacuated are heading home to assess how much damage and clean up they are going to face.  My intent is to help out in anyway I can, donating goods and time when I can.  The city is still under a water usage restriction, and some areas are still restricted as roads are impassable, transit detours will be in effect  and schools are closed until the last day of classes for the year.  Our downtown core will not be full operational for a while. The city is a major hub for oil and gas offices for North America. Offices may not be up and running until at least mid week.

I have never felt so far away from my regular life before. It was hard to sleep and I could not enjoy being in Japan this time. My mind was in what was going on at home.  I had to put on a brave face for the 10 hour flight each way as most passengers did not know what was going on in our homes nor was it their main concern.  I had a job to do and had to compartmentalise my fears, worry, and preoccupation, smile and provide the service expected of me no matter how little I felt like being cheery.  I hope I never have to feel this way again, this helpless and this far removed from my life.

If you would like to donate to the Alberta flood 2013 relief fund please contact the Canadian Red Cross http://www.redcross.ca/Donate/Donate-Online/Donate-to-the-Alberta-Floods

Those wishing to donate their valuable time and  volunteer may contact http://www.yychelps.ca/