CALGARY, Alberta — The two rivers that converge on the Canadian city of Calgary were receding Saturday after floods devastated much of southern Alberta province, causing at least three deaths and forcing thousands to evacuate.
The flooding forced authorities to evacuate Calgary’s entire downtown and hit some of the city’s landmark structures hard. The Saddledome, home to the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames, was flooded up to the 10th row, leaving the dressing rooms submerged.
Water lapped at the roof of the chuckwagon barns at the grounds of the Calgary Stampede, which is scheduled to start in two weeks. Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has said the city will do everything it can to make sure the world-renowned party goes ahead.
Bruce Burrell, director of the city’s emergency management agency, said Saturday they are seeing improvements in the rivers. Dan Limacher, director of water services for the city, said the Elbow River is expected to recede by about 60 percent over the next two days, while the larger Bow River will recede by about 25 percent.
However, Nenshi said Saturday that a state of emergency was still in effect.
‘‘Flows on Elbow and Bow [rivers] are dropping slowly. We do believe the peak has passed on the Elbow. However, water levels are still four times higher than 2005 flood levels,’’ he said during a press conference.
Overflowing rivers on Thursday and Friday washed out roads and bridges, soaked homes, and turned streets into dirt-brown waterways around southern Alberta.
High River, southwest of Calgary, was one of the hardest-hit areas and remained under a mandatory evacuation order. Police said they have recovered three bodies in the town.
It is estimated that half the people in the town of 13,000 experienced flooding in their homes. Police cut off access to most of the town and helicopters were circling overhead. Abandoned cars lay submerged in water, while backhoes worked in vain to push water back from houses.
By Saturday morning, 485 evacuees had registered at an evacuation shelter in Nanton, south of Calgary, and 278 people were on the inquiry list.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Saturday that during rescue and evacuation efforts on Friday in the High River area, approximately 800 people were evacuated by helicopter along with 100 to 200 people rescued by various watercraft.
Ed Mailhot, a volunteer in High River, has been working to build a database of evacuees and those who are looking for them. Cellphone service was not restored until late Friday.
‘‘There are a lot of loved ones out there that people can’t find,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s still chaos.’’
Alberta Premier Alison Redford has warned that communities downstream of Calgary haven’t yet felt the flood waters’ full force of the floodwaters. Medicine Hat, downstream from Calgary, was under a mandatory evacuation order affecting 10,000 residents.
Burrell said some of Calgary’s 75,000 flood evacuees from more than 24 neighborhoods would be allowed back into their homes. He said the goal is to allow people from portions of six communities back into their homes Saturday.