Calgary races to save Stampede as flood costs mount

Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:26pm EDT
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By Scott Haggett and Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Calgary will push ahead with its annual Stampede festival on July 5, a marquee event that draws a million people, despite massive flooding that swamped the venue and left the downtown of Canada's oil capital without power, officials said on Monday.

The worst flooding in decades late last week turned streets in Calgary and other towns in southern Alberta into fast-running rivers, wreaking damage that will likely cost billions of dollars for repairs and clean-up operations.

The Stampede, a 10-day bonanza of rodeo, street parties and corporate entertainment, pumps C$340 million ($320 million) a year into the economy of Calgary, Alberta's largest city.

"We're going to do whatever it takes to be ready by July 5," Calgary Stampede Chief Executive Vern Kimball told reporters, promising that volunteers would accelerate their schedule to get facilities ready in time for the event.

City officials said on Monday they expected to reopen downtown Calgary over the next two to three days, but the city's mayor has urged companies to encourage employees to work remotely for several days.

Missing out on income from the Stampede would only increase the economic impact of the flood, which is already sure to be far greater than the C$400 million in damages caused by the "flood of the century" of 2005.

BMO Capital Markets said the latest deluge could cut Canadian gross domestic product by 0.1 percentage points in June, at a conservative estimate, while total losses could be C$3 billion-C$5 billion.

Alberta Premier Allison Redford promised C$1 billion in initial funding to help pay for damage, some of which will be covered by the federal government. Some repair work could stretch out over a decade, she said.   Continued...

An abandoned car sit submerged on a flooded street in the Mission area of Calgary, Alberta June 22, 2013. REUTERS/Melissa Renwick