Vancouver Helping Calgary

The news is ablaze with stories of the terrible flooding in Calgary.  As I wrote in an article yesterday (Leaving Calgary…) I got out before the worst of it, but only barely.  The rivers are overflowing, entire neighborhoods are under water, and the news is not getting better.  At least two dead, and people are discovering that many of their insurance policies will not cover the damage.

On Saturday I spent the day with the Vancouver Technology Users Group (VANTug).  We spent the morning talking Windows 8 and Office 365, and then in the afternoon we discussed System Center 2012 and Microsoft’s Private Cloud solutions.  We had a great time at the Burnaby campus of BCIT.  I always love coming out to Vancouver, and today was no different.

And yet I couldn’t get Calgary out of my mind.  I know that a lot of people are scared, cold, wet, and hungry… and will have a very tough time rebuilding.  I am sure that when the IT Pros of Southern Alberta do get back into their offices they will have discussions around disaster recovery, business continuity, and minimizing loss.  Today, and through the middle of the week I expect most of them are with their families worrying about things much more important… their homes, their memories.

I showed up at BCIT with a Big Box o’ Swag full of prizes, and as is always the case at Install Fests I was asked early on if they were going to get licenses of Windows 8.  They were not… but as luck would have it I had one license in my laptop case that I had received at an event a few weeks ago that I did not really need, so I told them I would raffle off that license at the end of the day.

When the raffle time came some fifteen people won mice, keyboards, and Xbox controllers.  I then put all of the winning tickets back into the hat and was about to draw for the Windows 8 Pro license when I had a thought…

I had a one year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium in my bag that I was supposed to give to a friend last week, but didn’t see them.  As I stood at the front of the room I asked the group leader (Peter) if they support charities, and he said that they did.  Normally they support the local children’s hospital, but for this I asked him to agree to support the Red Cross Alberta Floods Fund.  I told the group that I would draw for a winner of the Windows 8 license, and if the winner was willing to donate $50 to the fund (through VanTug) then he or she would also receive the subscription for Office 365.

The winner agreed and is now the proud owner of two great products… but should be even prouder to be helping a very important cause that is near and dear to my heart, and one that should be important for all Canadians.

I received a comment on my blog that same morning in response to an article I wrote about the relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada.  He said that we have nothing in common across this great land (obviously not his words).  I disagree.  I think we share a heart and a love of our fellow man that transcends the political views of one side or another of any political debate, most of which seem petty in the face of disasters that befall regions and peoples from time to time.  I will respond to that comment in an article later this week, but in the meantime I hope my Quebec reader takes some food for thought from this one, and says a prayer or even donates a little to the people of Alberta… so distant, but so close to all of us.

Leaving Calgary…

I have never had a problem leaving Calgary.  That probably sounds worse than it is… I have grown to really enjoy coming to Calgary, and wish some of my visits were longer.  I am simply saying that I cannot recall ever having any issues with traffic, at the airport, or anything.  On most days that would sound like an endorsement of Air Canada and the CATSA security screeners.  Today it is a little different.

Flood There was no mention of flooding as we landed yesterday, and frankly the first I heard of it was on the radio driving into town.  I assumed they were talking about minor flooding in outlying rural areas.  I even gave a cursory thought of heading down to Prince’s Island Park for a walk.  That would have been ill-advised at best it would seem, as the entire area is experiencing the worst flooding in a century.

It was easy to miss it… I got to the hotel yesterday and it was dry.  I walked to the office and then went out for lunch without a problem.  I even got to and from my event last night without concern.  However the entire office was abuzz with talk of the flooding, of areas washed away, of trailers lost, and of people stranded.  When I arrived at my event I found a room of 18 people instead of the 50 who were registered.  Most of them simply couldn’t get into town.

Fortunately I had made dinner reservations at a restaurant near my hotel, and I knew I would be alright.  My colleague and I got to Saltlik and it was a lot busier than I had ever seen it… people were stranded and couldn’t get to wherever it was they had to go.  There were even rumours that the downtown core would be evacuated, like so many of the suburban areas already had been.  I was not concerned for myself – sitting in a dry restaurant and a dry bottle of wine and across the stream street from my dry hotel and a 20th floor room.

As we finished the last of the bottle of wine and contemplated the idea of coffee a piercing alarm sounded.  Once I determined where it was coming from I immediately tuned it out and heard the sounds of other alarms from nearby establishments.  The staff came and hurriedly told us that it was not a drill, and the Police were ordering them to evacuate.  While the immediate area was safe it was clear from the mood that many of the staff would have a hard time getting home, and they had to leave early to try to get there.

In speaking with the hotel clerk she told me that there was no clear answer, but I should leave myself plenty of extra time to get to the airport… I asked her to adjust my wake-up call based on that.  Sirens pierced the air all night long as emergency workers dealt with the storm.

The Calgary Flood of 2013 is the worst the area has experienced in a century.  it is a testament to the training of the emergency workers that to date no deaths have been reported, but the damage is devastating.  Leaving the city this morning I saw Police blockades preventing inbound traffic; as I got onto the highway I saw the normally calm river appearing like white water rapids, much higher, much closer than I’d ever seen them.  While I am glad I had no issues getting to the airport, my thoughts and prayers will remain here today… and with the people of this great city.  Stay safe friends.