High River man says he saw flood coming, warns of more to come

A High River man who says he predicted the disastrous June floods in that community says the town needs to take steps now in advance of what he says will be more flooding this year.

At 95, retired fire chief Oliver Perry still lives in his home a block from the river. His driver’s licence was recently renewed for two more years and this week he adjusted the horn on his pickup truck so it will honk a little bit louder.

He is a bit frailer then he use to be. He really misses his wife, Mildred, who died six years ago.

And he wishes what happened to his town seven months ago didn’t occur.

Last spring, during one of his visits to the Southfork Restaurant, he took along a photo, shot by his mother, of the flood of 1932.

He was warning people that an even bigger flood was going to happen, sometime between June 7 and June 21.

“I said it would be a bigger one than anyone had seen in their lives,” he said. “A few of them took me seriously because of my age and being around here.”

But more than a few told him to take his picture and go home.

Perry based his forecast on a lifetime of experience monitoring the Highwood River. He got involved with the fire department after the Second World War and over the years developed a way to keep track of the river’s flow. He kept a stick in the river behind the town shops and would measure how fast the water would come up.

Perry also kept in touch with people living far west of town, knowing that the water in the mountains will hit town 24 hours later.

“When there has been seven inches of rain out west, you know it’s coming down somewhere.”

He was downtown June 20th, and headed home when he saw water flowing down the street. He wasn’t able to save much in his basement but he did get his guns up to the main floor. He then spent the day watching the rising waters around his home.

Perry also took photographs of a helicopter rescuing some of his neighbours.

About 6 p.m. he noticed the water had started to go down and was quite happy to stay in his home when three men knocked and told him he had to leave. They didn’t give him time to put on his shoes.

“Three big, burly guys were there and I got a piggyback ride out to a manure truck, in my stocking feet, and told to climb up the ladder to get in there. There is about an inch of stuff in there.”

He spent 30 days away from his home and says he is happy the police, using a locksmith, went into the house and removed his guns, which have since been returned. In the 2005 flood, two of his firearms were stolen.

Today, his basement is empty and he’s not fixing it up. His shop in the middle of town, which contains what is left from a lifetime of work, is full of mud and many of his tools are ruined. He plans on selling the building, as is.

He is predicting another flood this year, not as bad last year, between June 3 and June 6.

He believes plans must be made now to keep High River safe.

“You got to start thinking about your fellow man and really get down to brass tacks. . . . The time has come to pass, you can’t play around no longer.”

 

Source: CalgaryHerald.com

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