Home Flooded Home -- Museum Exhibit Musings

I just did a class outside this morning in the snow (was rather fun but would have been nicer in the sun-shine) and it got me thinking about the weather of southern Alberta. A few years ago one of our volunteers put together a brochure on weird weather and weather extremes of southern Alberta. Such as the May 1903 snowstorm in which two boys perished. Or the Chinook in 1966 where the temperature in Pincher Creek rose 21 degrees Celsius in four minutes. Or January 1906 when the Chinooks warmed up southern Alberta enough that they played baseball. Or the floods of the river.

It seems that every 10 years or so the Oldman River has the “flood of the century.” Well, the 1906-1913 period was no different. In spring of 1908 the river flooded. The newspaper reported that on 10 June it had rained for 48 hours and that the river had risen 6 feet and was continuing to rise 4 to 5 inches an hour. People were forced to move out of the river bottom and the traffic bridge across the river was washed away.

Cellars were filled with water. Warehouses flooded. Sewer trenches in the streets and lawns fell in. This is an incredibly unpleasant image of Lethbridge during this time. We have to remember not only how prevalent outhouses were at this time but that the sewer system was not yet fully developed.

It was reported that the old wooden buildings were leaking like sieves and the wind was driving the rain through the roofs of even the newest and best built buildings.

In and around southern Alberta that were also a lot of damage. People were driven out of the lowlands in the Cardston area. In Raymond the reservoir broke near the Sugar Factory and took out some of the train tracks. At the Cameron Ranch the flood carried away every house and out-building on the ranch except for the main house.

And the telephone line between Lethbridge and Macleod was reported to be buried beneath 10 feet of mud in the Belly River near Macleod.

Reading and thinking about these events makes me wonder what people’s reactions were when they got to know this country they had recently come to call home. And some of these houses on the prairies would have been sod houses. In these houses one day's rain could lead to three days of leaks and drips.

You have to wonder about the conversations held in these houses. And how many wives turned to their husbands and said something like: I left my home and my family and moved thousands of miles for this?

But can I find any of these stories for the exhibit?