UPDATE 1-Calgary races to save Stampede as flood costs mount
(Recasts with details on Stampede, potential costs)
CALGARY, Alberta, June 24 (Reuters) - Calgary will push ahead with its annual Stampede festival on July 5, a marquee event that draws 1 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 surrounding towns into fast-running rivers, wreaking damage that will likely cost the province of Alberta billions of dollars for repairs and clean-up operations.
The Stampede, a 10-day bonanza of rodeo, street parties and corporate entertainment, pumps some 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.
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 so-called "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 in what may be a low-ball estimate.
"That would equate to lost output of about C$2 billion (in annualized terms), but the property damage will likely be multiples of that," BMO senior economist Benjamin Reitzes said by email.
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.
The flood swamped part of Calgary's downtown core, home to the headquarters of most of Canada's oil and gas industry, where power is likely to be out for days or even weeks or months in some pockets. It also forced about 10 percent of the city's 1.1 million residents out of their homes.
In communities south of Calgary, floods killed three and also forced evacuations and plant closures.
Officials said about 65,000 Calgary residents had now returned to the homes they left on Friday after the Bow and Elbow rivers spilled their banks. Many returned to flooded basements and considerable property damage.
OIL HEADQUARTERS CLOSED
By Monday, water levels had receded on downtown streets. Under sunny skies, drying silt sent up clouds of dust as cars struggled to make progress. Near the downtown core electronic road signs warned of limited access and told motorists to expect major delays. Mosquitoes swarmed.
Sorting out its transit problems is among the many problems that Calgary will have to tackle in short order to prepare for the Stampede. News photos showed twisted tracks on the transit line that services Stampede Park.
John Jackson, executive director of the Calgary Hotel Association, said nine downtown hotels were still without power, but there was no major water damage.
Although oil company headquarters in Calgary were closed, traders monitored the crude market remotely.
"We are all working remotely using iPhones and BlackBerrys," said one Calgary-based crude trader, who expected volumes to be very thin. "Other than not being able to stand up and holler across the desk, it's fairly normal."
However, oil pipelines that move almost 1 million barrels per day of Alberta oil sands crude remained shut after a spill on a smaller line that may have been caused by the flooding in the southern part of the province..
Canadian Pacific Railway said its main line west of Calgary had reopened after crews restored portions of the track that had been hit by the floods.
But the TransCanada Highway, Canada's main east-west road link, was still closed at Canmore, Alberta, a resort town that is a gateway to the Canadian Rockies.
(Writing by Cameron French, additional reporting by Louise Egan and Peter N Henderson; Editing by Janet Guttsman, Mary Milliken and Peter Galloway)