Calgary flood evacuation grows, zoo animals could be next

Matthew Coutts
Daily BrewJune 21, 2013

A massive evacuation continues to play out in Calgary, where flood waters have forced more than 75,000 people from their homes and left the city's core a virtual wasteland.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has asked residents to avoid all unnecessary travel, but there is one trip city officials may need to make.

As part of the intense evacuation, some of the Calgary Zoo's largest animals may need to move to a new home - in jail cells at the courthouse.

The Calgary Herald reports that emergency management and zoo officials are considering moving the city's four lions, six tigers and two snow leopards to the courthouse.

Emergency management director suggested the move was underway, while zoo spokeswoman Laurie Skene told the newspaper that it was just one possible option.

"The courthouse remains a contingency plan for the big cats if they need to be evacuated," she said.

[ Related: Alberta flood: 'I watched couches go by. It's insane' ]

The zoo itself announced it would remain closed through Friday amid increasing flood risk. It said animal care workers were focused on the safety of the animals.

"As the Bow River continues to rise zoo staff are taking measures to secure and move animals to safe locations," the statement read.

Parts of the zoo have already flooded and other animals have been transfered to safer areas. Two pot-bellied pigs are believed to have been taken to an animal shelter and gorillas are being kept to the highest areas of their enclosure.

The city itself has declared a state of emergency and police were patrolling areas that have been evacuated to watch for looters.

The city says that power has been shut off to evacuated communities but, due to the way the power grid is set up, that means some areas bordering the evacuation zone have lost power as well.

A full list of updates and closures is available here.

[ Geekquinox: Severe flooding prompts Alberta evacuations ]

Transit service has been suspended and schools have been closed. Nenshi urged residents to avoid non-essential travel at all costs.

Meantime, other areas of southern Alberta were suffering the full brunt of flood waters. In nearby Canmore, Alta., rushing water cut a fierce river through residential backyards.

Kevan Yaets of High River, Alta., was forced to climb out of his submerged pickup truck with his cat Momo and swim to the shore. Yaets and Momo both managed to reach safety.

In Bragg Creek, a small hamlet just west of Calgary, the flooding reached such a dire level that an entire home was swept away in the current.

"I offer my sincerest condolences to those who lost their homes. It is incredibly sad," wrote ZabaOfficial, who posted a video of the incident on YouTube.

Calgary officials are warning that the worst is still to come.