Fort McMurray and Area Floods: One Year Update

When spring flooding forced thousands to leave their homes in northern Alberta last year, seniors living in downtown Fort McMurray were hit hard.

Luana Bussieres, executive director of St. Aidan’s Society in Fort McMurray, says the organization is grateful for the support offered by the Red Cross to help seniors along their path to recovery after the flooding.

“With a high concentration of seniors in our downtown core, the floods had a very significant impact on our older population. We have been fortunate to have worked closely with the Canadian Red Cross. They have always encouraged organizations to examine the lessons learned from the 2016 wildfires. Those lessons drove our efforts in flood recovery, and I know we had improved outcomes for seniors as a result,” says Luana, who has lived in the city for 54 years.

On April 26, 2020, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) declared a State of Local Emergency as high-water levels caused flooding along the Athabasca, Snye and Clearwater Rivers. More than 13,000 people were evacuated from the area, including Mackenzie County.

Two Red Cross team members standing in a tent talking to a resident of Fort McMurrayRed Cross worked with the RMWB and Government of Alberta to register evacuees, assist with emergency lodging, and provide other supports. The flood was the first large disaster in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Red Cross, following public health protocols, changed the way it responded by delivering support virtually, where possible, over the phone and online. Volunteers and staff were safely on the ground in the affected areas as well, providing re-entry assistance when residents could return home.

Red Cross also offered resources to support community mental health initiatives, eligible small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and community partners. Red Cross continues to help residents navigate the recovery process. This includes assisting people with the application process for the Alberta government’s Disaster Recovery Program (DRP). Additionally, Red Cross is offering supports and referrals to those impacted by property buyouts in the RMWB as a result of 2020 flooding.
Several Red Cross staff members and volunteers are also still recovering from the flooding’s impact. Guy Choquet, Red Cross Operations Director for Alberta Fires Recovery, was evacuated, taken to safety by boat and could not return home until October 2020.

“Recovery is a personal journey,” Choquet says. “I discovered my recovery pathway through the support of friends, co-workers and family.”

It has been a year of resilience, perseverance, and recovery. Jenn McManus, Red Cross Vice President for Alberta, and Northwest Territories, says last year’s flooding impacted people who were already on a path to recovery after the 2016 wildfires.

“Part of this recovery has involved extraordinary coordination and collaboration in the community. It is a unique and challenging situation when a community in wildfire recovery has another major emergency during a pandemic. Red Cross was very thankful to once again be invited by the community to be part of the response and help support families.”

You can find more information on the Red Cross response.
 
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