Memories flooding back

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

Scott Coe sympathizes with the hundreds of southern Albertans threatened this week by rising flood waters.

The Calgary Stampeders linebacker spent many back-breaking hours filling sandbags in his native Winnipeg, battling the temperamental Red River when it overflowed its banks in the spring of 1997.

"I was in high school at the time and we had set aside two classes every day to help people sandbag in the rural areas," the Stampeders linebacker recalled of the Red River flood, when tens of thousands of Manitoba residents were evacuated.

"We were moved into other neighbourhoods to help people we didn't even know. That's the way it was for everyone in the city. Everybody worked together.

"It was unbelievable how much water there was. I lived in River Heights, which is the highest area in the city, so we weren't affected but people along the flood plain got bombarded by water. There was water flowing into people's houses and a lot of the streets were shut down. You couldn't even get out of town.

"People from the rural areas came in, vans full of people, passing sandbags from person to person ... I don't want to say it was fun but it's an interesting thing to be involved in to see people working together."

While the Stampeders were preparing Tuesday night to face Saskatchewan in their first CFL pre-season game, hundreds of people in southern Alberta were evacuating their homes, heading for higher ground.

Although much has been made of the horrendous game-day conditions at McMahon Stadium, running back Joffrey Reynolds was thinking of the deadly rainstorms that often rock his native Texas this time of year.

Every day Reynolds has been noticing the swelling Bow River as he travels to and from McMahon, sparking all-too-vivid memories of tragic flooding back home.

"There's too much flooding back home, especially in Houston where I went to college," said Reynolds, 25.

"It's fairly low there, pretty close to below sea level. So when we get these kind of heavy rains down there it floods pretty bad, especially down by the Gulf in hurricane season."

The rising waters even sent the Tyler, Tex., product scampering out of his ground-level dorm one spring. Many other Texans weren't nearly as lucky.

"One time, in 2000, we had real bad flooding when a lot of people got killed," Reynolds recalled.

"People had to evacuate and there were people stuck up on the overpasses on freeways because the water was so deep. There was water up to the roofs of houses and a lot of people were forced up on top of their houses. Some people were riding through the streets in boats.

"One lady who worked downtown went downstairs in the parking garage and it was flooded, so when she opened up the elevator water just poured in and she died.

"They had the national guard come in. It was almost like the rain we've had here the last week except harder. One night -- I'd never seen it rain so hard -- it was like rivers of water just falling out of the sky and the next morning everything was underwater.

"A lot of people lost their homes and they were ruined. People died in their cars flooded in the streets."


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