Historic Floods of 2013

When I left DataHive on June 20 to go home, the weather was rainy but I did not anticipate the severity of what was to come in the next 12 to 24 hours. I suppose nobody did.

Less than three hours after I’d left the downtown core, I got a call from friends who live in Bowness asking if they could stay with us for a day or so as they were being evacuated. That was my first clue that things were going to get hairy.

By the time I turned on the morning news on Friday at 6AM, it was clear we were going to be in for big trouble. All transit into the core was suspended, and Mayor Nenshi was requesting that everybody stay at home. A mere 6 hours later, downtown was being evacuated. Ultimately, approximately 100,000 residents and the entire core were being moved out of the way of record high waters. It was alarming to watch the devastating effects of the flood as they unfolded live on TV.

I was constantly monitoring our systems, knowing that if the water reached our building and/or the City of Calgary elected to cut the power to our part of the city (as they were doing throughout the flood zone), we’d have to think and act very quickly. The network was holding steady. Our providers were keeping the traffic flowing, which didn’t really surprise me. As long as we were able to maintain power to our routers, I was fairly certain that the internet would work as it was designed to. Traffic would be able to find at least one workable route.

Power was the real concern. We have the UPS in place, and we have 72 hours of fuel for the generator, meaning the immediate impact of the grid being cut would be zero. My concern was with what would happen after 72 hours or if the flood waters reached the room in which the generator is kept. The authorities certainly were not going to let a loaded fuel truck (or any traffic for that matter) into the red zone. If they cut the power on Friday afternoon, we’d be down by Monday afternoon. Best case scenario was to orchestrate an organized and planned shutdown of the data centre and then wait it out as the disaster was dealt with.

The logical thing to do was to contact our clients and let them know that – as of that moment – DataHive was not being effected. We said we’d keep them advised as the situation changed, and that we had a plan in place to deal with any eventuality. And then…


The water kept coming. The Bow River rose to 3 or 4 times its usual flow, but 840 7th Avenue SW was a little oasis in the middle of an unprecedented natural disaster. We didn’t lose grid power for even a second. The generator did not fire up.

On Saturday, I was able to ride my bike across the Louise Bridge and get into our building to prepare a ¼ rack for a new client who had been flooded out of their existing location. Needless to say, they were pretty impressed that DataHive was able to help them out, given the state of emergency that the rest of downtown was in.

The river didn’t crest until sometime late Sunday, so we weren’t out of the woods yet, but things were looking good for our data centre. Monday morning came, and all staff were able to make their way downtown and put in a full days work. Much of the downtown core would not be so fortunate. Most businesses were closed until at least Wednesday, many had no choice but to stay closed for the entire week, and places like the library are still closed as far as I know.

I can’t really explain how we got so lucky. One short block to the north of us (closer to the river), utility power was cut. A few blocks to the south, power was cut. East into downtown…cut.

In a way, it doesn’t really matter why. What matters is that we now know that DataHive is situated in a part of downtown Calgary that is proven to be extremely reliable, even in the face of a multi-billion dollar natural disaster that resulted in many data centres going off-line.

Here’s hoping that our clients and friends all made it through relatively unscathed, and that we never see something like this again. I can confidently speak for everybody at DataHive when I say “we’re very grateful”.

- Iain

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