Tuesday, 9 July 2013, 3 aircraft departed Red Deer for High River with a total of 11 people on board, 8 of which were CASARA members. We had arranged for transportation from the airport to the town site upon our arrival. We had been warned about the sights we were about to see. When we stepped out of our cars, the first thing that hit us was the smell. The smell of must, mold, wet, and most of all, rotting food from all the freezers and fridges that had been left when the power went out was overpowering.
High River disaster management had a Team Leader/liaison person set up to guide us around to our worksites.
Our first task was to assist an elderly couple load their household/life time possessions, into a large dumpster. The devastated owners were mentally incapable of doing anything. After that we went from door to door helping where we could. It was a huge shock looking down the streets of a new neighborhood, and seeing the entire contents of someone’s household, many of whom were elderly and retired, piled at the curbs (see pictures.) Once you “looked past” the piles of stuff, the houses looked very normal – UNTIL you went inside. In most cases the drywall and total contents were soaked from about 3 feet up the main floor wall, down and basements had been totally filled with water destroying everything. Must and mold were taking over and running ramped. In many cases, new homes will have to be bulldozed and hauled away.
In many cases elderly people just sat on chairs, starring at the garage floor, or driveway, totally bewildered at what had happened to them. For many of them, their lifetime sat in huge piles in front of them, rotting.
When we arrived at our staging area we were greeted and provided with all the necessary gear to protect us from bugs, mold, mud etc, they asked us where we were from. We told them that we were with CASARA and had flown in from Red Deer, a big cheer went up. One of the most moving things was that wherever we went, people would come out and thank us for coming. I have never been thanked so many times, by so many people in such a short time, in all my life.
CASARA members contributed a total of 88 volunteer hours, the costs associated with this effort for the flight down and back were donated by the involved members.
Story submitted by: Jim Thoreson, Red Deer CASARA