Sunnyside struggles to move beyond the flood

Three months since the June flooding in Calgary ravaged the communities surrounding the Bow and Elbow River, residents of the northwest community of Sunnyside are still struggling to recover from the most expensive natural disaster in Canada’s history.

Sunnyside residents evacuated their homes on June 20, along with neighbouring communities Hillhurst, Westmount and Bowness, when the floodwaters of the Bow breached its banks.

Calgary resident Stan Dennis, who owns a rental unit in Sunnyside and is also the vice president of the building’s condo board, remembers the flood’s impact.

“Although we did not end up being flooded due to overland water, ultimately we succumbed to sewer back up,” said Dennis.

Dennis said that the waters flowed into the parkade from the back alley and up from the drains, and soon the underground parking lot was full of four feet of water.

With the building sustaining damage to all the lower level storage, bike and mechanical rooms, the condo board, along with many volunteers, set to work by pumping out the water in the building, ripping out drywall and shoveling out sewage muck.

Dennis said that although the recovery work was completed quickly, the remaining work has been a slow process.

“Dealing with the insurance adjuster has been a nightmare,” said Dennis.

“It’s been over three months and we finally have the go ahead to complete the ‘emergency work.’”

Despite dealing with the difficulties of the flood, Dennis said he would buy another rental property in Sunnyside.

“Sunnyside has always been, and will always be, a desirable place to live,” said Dennis.

Long-time Sunnyside resident Trish Dribnenki and her son were also evacuated on June 20, but have not been able to return home to their apartment. They have been displaced for 105 days.

“We ended up moving seven times in a few months,” said Dribnenki.

During the aftermath of the flood, all the while being displaced, Dribnenki found herself spending hours on the phone only to be deferred to other services or told to call a different service.

“The Red Cross was not giving out support as readily as promised or indicated, and the system was beginning to seem so difficult,” said Dribnenki.

“Thank goodness I finally got angry. Anger can be very motivating.”

Fueled by frustration, and wanting to gain a better understanding of the challenges and upcoming developments related to the flood, Dribnenki decided to join the Sunnyside Flood Task Force, Community Division.

Dribnenki said that the biggest challenge with the flooding is navigating the system.

“It is not set up to support individuals grieving their homes, [who are] tired and overwhelmed,” said Dribnenki.

“The system is confusing and disorganized.”

Dribnenki said that the Sunnyside Task Force is collaborating with the City of Calgary and government services to check and assess community needs and concerns. This effort is to work towards advocating for improvement and disaster planning for the future.

“We can hopefully prevent any future events of this magnitude,” Dribnenki said.

For more information on the Sunnyside Flood Task Force, visit click here.

Struggling Still: An autumn view of the Calgary community of Sunnyside. (Photo by Cara Howlett/The Press)
Struggling Still: An autumn view of the Calgary community of Sunnyside. (Photo by Cara Howlett/The Press)
About Cara Howlett 7 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Cara Howlett worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2013-2014 academic year.