By Kevin Rushworth
A group of frustrated High River residents huddled around a truck radio Friday afternoon, as they anxiously awaited the official announcement of when the first community members could re-enter the town.
Eight days after floodwaters ravaged the Town of High River, nearly all of the town’s 13,000 residents are now voicing major concerns they have with the response to the disastrous flood.
As mold and mildew become issues for those with flood damage, High Riverites know the time spent away from home has lessened opportunities for remediation.
Just as residents could not enter town for the official statement at Highwood High School, 40 High Riverites gathered at the northwest edge of town and listened to the address on the radio.
A day earlier, a spike belt laid at the same northwest entrance brought forth an escalation of tensions between RCMP and townsfolk. On Friday, the situation remained peaceful, but RCMP officers had posted extra members.
When Rick Fraser, minister of High River, made the announcement that certain residents living in the northwest could return to their homes Saturday morning, there was a sense of relief.
As part of High River’s staged re-entry, residents of six northwest neighbourhoods, are able to return to their homes starting at noon on June 29.
These include Lineham Acres, Eagleview Estates, Polo Park, Highwood Village, Vista Mirage, High Park and High Country.
However, the message relayed over the airwaves that other residents in different quadrants had to wait longer before returning was frustrating for others.
Though the news was good for some, concerns are still apparent about lack of communication and residents’ inability to return home for flood clean up.
“I left sometime Saturday afternoon and my place is bone dry,” resident Randy Allan said. “I had a foot of water in there, but it’s frustrating sitting here and not being able to go clean it up.”
He said he felt for the people living on the flood ravaged east side, but that the people of the northwest should have been in their homes much earlier to start the process.
“Let us start cleaning this mess up,” he said, mere minutes before the official address. “We’re better at cleaning the mess up and I’ve lived here my whole life.”
Along with countless High River residents, Allan said he wished there was more communication and that he has gone through many floods.
“I don’t know why in this end of town, why we aren’t in there cleaning up right now,’ he asked.
Murray Williamson, a member of a group of concerned residents of northwest High River, said his basement was flooded, but his sons’ was untouched.
“They should be in there helping to clean up and checking their own houses,” he said. “That’s really all we’re concerned about is to get back into our houses and do an evaluation.”
Williamson said if he had been able to get into High River sooner, he would have been able to salvage more of his personal belongings and avoid some flood costs.
“Had I been able to get in there Monday, I could have salvaged that and there would have been no costs other than just cleaning up,” he said.
Though the first six neighbourhoods of the re-entry plan have been named, High River resident Barry Ranger said it has been organized much too late.
He said re-entry for northwest residents should have been set up earlier so that they could help town crews by fixing up their own homes.
“They’re dealing with a smaller portion of the city that way, instead of the whole body,” Ranger said.
With that being said, he noted that he is not reducing what has happened to other people in the submerged section of High River’s southeast.
“Keeping everyone else out because of that is not a good thing to do,” he said.