The 2013 Alberta floods: Looking back at the disaster one year later

June 20, 2014 Russ Mackenzie

Russ Mackenzie gives us an up-close view of the 2013 southern Alberta floods - and how our teams rallied to support our communities.


It’s been one year since I woke to find an email reading, “Are you going to close the offices?” For me, it started a journey that tested our team’s resolve, challenged us mentally and physically, and ultimately brought our whole community closer together.

That was the morning of June 21. The day before, as rain continued to fall and the rivers rose, there was little doubt that southern Alberta was in for some serious flooding. Overnight it got worse—a lot worse. Evacuations were underway in many communities, turning my thoughts to our people’s safety, and how we could help.



June 21 was supposed to be an exciting day for the team in Calgary. Our annual Peer Fair would allow our teams to come together and learn more about the work they do, while having some fun and good food. Instead, within hours, we set up a crisis communications plan letting everyone know the offices were closing for the day, but access to buildings not impacted by flooding would remain open in case any of our employees needed a safe place to go. We rerouted the food for Peer Fair along with additional water and supplies to emergency shelters that were taking in evacuees from around the city.

Our 25th Street office overlooks downtown Calgary and the Bow River, and throughout the morning, I could see the river rise and the emergency unfold. I watched as CP Rail loaded one of their bridges over the river with rail cars weighed down with gravel to hold the bridge in place as the rushing, debris-filled water pushed against the trusses. I could see barricades going up to prevent cars from crossing bridges, cutting off access to downtown. It was an ominous feeling. The city was slowly shutting down. As the water receded, however, the city came back to life with an unstoppable spirit of resilience.

With such a wide scope of skills and expertise, our people have been on the front lines of recovery from the beginning. Today, they remain working with our clients to restore their communities, and keep them safe from floodwaters in the future. I can’t capture all these stories here, but visit our Alberta Flood Stories to read about recovery throughout communities in southern Alberta. When you hear these stories, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. But we know there’s a lot more work to do as we continue helping our clients and communities recover from Canada’s costliest natural disaster.


About the Author

Russ Mackenzie

Russ Mackenzie is a vice president in Calgary, Alberta. Russ has more than 25 years of experience in flood assessments, mitigation, and repair; he oversaw the mobilization of more than 100 Stantec staff to respond to our clients’ requests following the 2013 southern Alberta floods.

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