Stanford family safe, but worried about abandoned house
Photographers check out destroyed downtown shops in High River, Alta., Saturday after the banks of the Highwood River overflowed . — Canadian Press file photo
The Stanford family is safe four days after being forced to flee from their home in High River, a community located just south of Calgary. The family of three was informed Monday it will be at least another four days before they can go home.
“My house was taking on water fast when I left,” said Shonna Stanford, who is originally from Conception Harbour and has lived in Alberta for seven years. “You always just think the worst, no matter how hard you try to stay positive. I’m just picturing my house full of mould.
“I had to leave my cats in there. It’s just a nightmare. I’m just picturing the whole place destroyed,” Shonna said.
Ten thousand people were ordered to evacuate High River once the flooding began. A further 75,000 in Calgary were told to head for higher ground after two rivers there started to overflow last week.
Shonna said she did not expect her family would have to leave the house that day. Thursday was not the first time she saw water fill up a field behind a school near her home.
“It didn’t really alarm me, because it has happened before. It didn’t affect me.”
But according to her, the situation changed in a matter of minutes once the river began to crest. The house was already taking in water when the Stanfords were told they needed to evacuate and head towards higher ground.
A power outage delayed their departure, as the garage door would not open. Craig Stanford, Shonna’s husband from Old Perlican, eventually flicked the emergency switch to force it to open.
“He waded across the driveway at mid-thigh to get into the garage,” said Shonna. “He held the garage door open. I managed to get the truck out.”
She left with bare feet with Craig, taking the couple’s four-year-old daughter Alanna and little else.
Efforts to locate a place to stay proved problematic — hotels the Stanfords contacted were solidly booked. They did eventually find a Holiday Inn Express in southern Calgary with vacancies and stayed there for four nights.
However, they left after the fourth night because the hotel increased the price of their room from $159 a night to $199 following the first three days.
“I had actually sent an email out before that to Holiday Inn and asked if they could actually give me some sort of break in my situation, and they said that they contacted this particular hotel and that the manager would be in touch with me immediately, and nobody contacted me,” said Shonna, who considers the price increase unethical given the circumstances.
The Stanfords are now staying with a friend in the nearby community of Okotoks, located just north of High River. Shonna works there and is able to continue working, while Craig is kept busy handling maintenance duties at a beef-processing plant in Calgary.
Alanna has been homesick and misses her cats, according to her mom.
“She doesn’t understand why we can’t go home. I’ve been trying to convince her that we’re on holidays, but even at four she can feel our stress and our worry.”
Despite the bad experience at the hotel, Shonna said there have been a lot of good people who have reached out to support her family since the flood struck High River.
“I’ve had friends and total strangers reaching out and telling me if I need help, just come to them ... I’ve had people show up and give me clothes to wear. I’ve had people giving me cards with motivational speeches on them and money to help us get through. People offering their houses. I had a lady I haven’t spoken to in five years come in and bring me clothes.”
On Monday, it was reported flooding in Alberta will establish new national records for flood damage, both for the cost of the damage and number of people forced to evacuate their homes — the provincial government estimates that latter figure has reached 120,000.
Premier Alison Redford committed $1 billion to the recovery effort Monday.
— With files from The Canadian Press