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Flood Case Studies
Michael Cunningham – Brisbane – 11/01/2011
"The Brisbane River first broke its banks about 500-600m (1,640-1,970ft) from our house. It has risen about 4ft (1.2m) in the seven hours since then, but is expected to rise rapidly when flood waters from other rivers add to the heavy rain and dam releases.
The situation is very uncertain - today the number of homes expected to flood jumped from 200 to 9,000 then back to 6,500. Our neighbours have been evacuated.
We expect downstairs flooding and have moved things upstairs in anticipation. We have also moved our cars to higher ground.
The sudden change in the situation led to shelf-clearing rushes on supermarkets and most people heading home early. We are prepared to be evacuated if necessary, but are hoping to stay in our house.
The government may take a different view. They have given powers to the police to order people to evacuate but I don’t whether these powers have been used yet.
The main road has been cut off but we have access to another road behind our house if we need to leave. Police have also been blocking access to the river where we are.
It isn’t raining here at the moment, but in the whole of Queensland it has been raining for weeks. The ground in most of Queensland is totally saturated.
We have had the wettest November and December. The unprecedented amount of rain has taken everyone by surprise".
Cumbria – November 2009
I am the manager of the Lodore Falls hotel in Borrowdale Valley where 70 guests and 60 staff are stranded. The guests are coping well but some are upset because they miss their children and want to go home. Some of our corporate guests are a bit frustrated because they were unable to attend business meetings and are trying to work with their laptops. The lower floor is flooded as are some areas of the ground floor.
tephen Johnson, Borrowdale Valley
I’m trapped in my office on the main street of Cockermouth. Luckily I have a bedsit on the third floor. I’ve been in contact with mountain rescue but I’m not a priority because I’m fit and healthy. The power went off overnight which was quite scary, but it’s back on again now and it’s daylight so it’s not so bad. I can see rescue boats going up and down the street. At one point the water was up to 6ft but it has dropped a bit. I would say 95% of the businesses on the high street are small family run businesses so they will be devastated.
Phil Howe, Cockermouth
My step dad is trapped in the upstairs of his house on Waterloo Street, Cockermouth. He is disabled and has three dogs with him. He has no food, no electricity or heating and no medication. The water is halfway up the stairs and rising. The next door neighbours (perfectly able-bodied) were rescued but he has not been contacted except by a paramedic to "asses his health". My mum was at work and is now at a friend’s house - she is beside herself. They were flooded in 2005 and Mum says she can’t go through the aftermath of that again.
Jem Harris, Wilmslow, Cheshire
I am trapped upstairs in my house with my two daughters (18 and 15) and my daughter’s boyfriend. This is the third time in four years we’ve been flooded so we knew what to expect, although it’s never been as bad as this. Our entire downstairs is flooded - it’s up to chest height. And we’re thinking it’s only going to get worse because it has not stopped raining. We have no electricity, no hot water, no heating so we’re sat up here in the dark. We’ve got a camping stove which we’ll use for dinner tonight but we’ll have to try and get some more food for tomorrow. My parents are 73 and live just down the road, but I can’t get to them now. They’re starting to get worried so I called the police to see if they could help.
Sue Cashmore, Cockermouth
Flood victims stories (Daily Telegraph 26th July 2007)
Joy Taylor and her family have watched the ominous brown flood waters inch towards their home since Saturday.
Despite the sandbags and fire pumps their neighbours have been overtaken by the water, one by one.
Finally, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, as a flood surge passed down the nearby Thames, it was their turn. More than a foot of filthy water bubbled through the floor of their brick, terrace home in Botley, Oxfordshire, destroying carpets, plasterwork, kitchen appliances and furniture that could not be moved upstairs.
Mrs Taylor, 54, a teacher, said: "With three children back from university for the holidays, it has been easy to move what they could, and fill sandbags, but, in the end, they were powerless.
Glen Tiswell has been forced to close one of his restaurants in Gloucester because of the water shortage and the opening of the second has been marked with the arrival of portable toilets.
Mr Tanswell said it was not the grand opening he had in mind for The Grill, a restaurant and bar, and said it was vital that water supplies were switched on as soon as possible.
He has already been forced to close Bearlands, his other eaterie, and his cheese shop, Gloucester’s Finest, until the water is back on, which could take up to two weeks.
He said: "It has cost me £20,000 to set up The Grill. If the water is not back within two weeks, I will be bankrupt."
Peggy Cross has only been evacuated from her home once before - during the Blitz. The 86-year-old was rescued from her sheltered accommodation in Abingdon on Sunday morning and has spent three days in the Holiday Inn, which is acting as a rescue centre for 100 evacuees.
Peggy is a resident of Cygnet Court, a sheltered block which was built on stilts to protect it from the neighbouring river. She woke up on Sunday to frightening scenes. "It was ominous," she said. "When I drew back my curtains and saw all the water, it was shocking - three or four foot deep and gushing underneath the building.
"The only other time I was evacuated was during the war, from London to Harrogate during the Blitz."
Towns vulnerable to floods (Daily Telegraph – 26th July 2007)
Flooded by river: 250 properties flooded in Botley, Osney and South Hinksey areas so far. More expected.
Why: Built on vulnerable flood plain between branches of Thames.
Defences: Natural - a huge flood plain holds enormous quantities of water between Oxford and Lechlade, Glos, more than 20 miles upstream, giving significant protection to all settlements downstream. Port Meadow flood plain, just north of city centre, is the last line of defence for Oxford on Thames. Man made - more than 100 properties protected in north Oxford by the Kidlington Flood Defence Scheme on the Cherwell, a major Thames tributary. It is a series of raised embankments. Pumps being used in Osney to reduce water levels. More than 2,000 sandbags delivered to residents in the city.
Flooded by river: 570 properties so far, mainly in south-west of town. More expected.
Why: Abingdon sits on the confluence of the River Thames and River Ock. South-west Abingdon is built on the flood plain on a neck between the two rivers. Both rivers have severe flood warnings.
Defences: No man-made defences. 10,000 sandbags.
Peak flood: Late Wednesday. Similar capacity to January 2003 flood.
Peak flood: Late Wednesday evening, but will remain high for several days. Peak will be similar height to January 2003 floods.
Flooded by river: Significant early flash flooding, but no river flooding so far. Possible flooding, but not as high risk as further upstream.
Why: Some buildings are on the flood plain.
Defences: No man-made. 10,000 sandbags handed out in Pangbourne and Purley.
Peak flood: Wednesday evening, lower than January 2003 flood.
Flooded by river: About 12 properties so far due to river flooding. More are expected.
Why: Significant building on flood plain.
Defences: No man-made. 10,000 sandbags handed out in Pangbourne and Purley. Barriers investigated but the Thames’ permeable riverbed causes problems.
Peak flood: Wednesday evening, lower than January 2003 flood.
Carlisle – 2005 (source – presentation by Carlisle Council Head of ICT)
Minister sees for himself devastation of Broxburn floods (Nov 13 2008 by Alistair Watson, West Lothian Courier)
The Environment Minister visited the Broxburn homes devastated by flash floods in August to launch a new Scottish Flood Forum this week.
The Scottish Flood Forum — funded by the Government, set up by the National Flood Forum and supported by SEPA — will raise awareness of flood warnings and self-help measures, while providing an independent voice for flood victims.
MSP Mike Russell met with residents of Newhouses Road and Burnvale who face months out of their homes after the Brox Burn burst its banks.
He said: "The new Scottish Flood Forum is part of the new processes in which we will treat flooding in Scotland.
"There is a new flooding bill going through parliament and it will allow us to bring in flood defences quicker than before.
"The forum aims to give people practical advice which we can all heed to help protect ourselves against flooding, by raising awareness of flood warnings and self-help measures.
"It is increasingly important to raise awareness of flooding in this way, following one of the wettest summers on record."
One of those the minister spoke to was Sheila Halliday, a member of the Burnside Residents Action Group, whose home in Burnvale had up to four foot of water in it during the peak of the flood.
She told the Courier it might be March before she is back in her home.
"My house is still at the drying out stage but I think they are nearly ready to start work. "I am in rented accommodation and it’s a roof over my head but it’s tiny compared to what I’m used to."
Livingston SNP MSP Angela Constance thanked Mike Russell for taking time to discuss the floods with affected residents.
She said: "I think it was important that he saw first hand how it devastated their lives.
"The people of Broxburn become anxious whenever there is heavy rain now. While nobody can ever guarantee that flooding will not happen again, it is incumbent on all levels of government to ensure that risks are reduced as far as possible and I believe that both West Lothian Council and the Scottish Government are living up to their responsibilities."
Mary’s home in Worcester has been flooded internally with raw sewage on many occasions. During autumn 2000 she was flooded twice to a depth of about 3ft. On this occasion many of her neighbours were also flooded. Mary led the fight - and won to make the water company concerned accept responsibility for the situation. She was delighted to be asked to officially open the £1.3 million sewage pumping station, which has put a stop to any further flooding. She did how ever refuse to have the pumping station named after her!
Mary went on to form ‘Worcester Action Against Flooding’ which now has an excellent working relationship with the E/A, Severn Trent Water and the local authority. Worcester is low down the list on the governments priority score for flood defences, but with hard lobbying and cooperation with the E/A, Worcester successfully trialled a temporary defence, the kite marked geo-design barrier (also known as the pallet barrier). This first saved homes and businesses from flooding in February 2004 and kept a main access road into Worcester open. Mary is lobbying hard for temporary barriers to be deployed where appropriate elsewhere in the country.
Mary now coordinates the day to day running of the National Flood Forum and also works as the Community Groups Director. She travels around the country offering communities at risk of flooding support, advice and the knowledge to give them a strong independent voice and a say in how floods are managed in their areas.
Mary has contributed to many TV programmes and BBC news bulletins speaking as the ‘voice of the flood victim.’ Most recently she appeared on the ‘Richard and Judy Show’ talking about the kite marked flood protection products. Mary has also given presentations at flood risk conferences and workshops. She enjoys using this platform to say just what it’s like to be flooded and to highlight the numerous problems people face in the aftermath of a flood.
Flood victims still rebuilding (Shropshire Star – 20th June 2008)
Shropshire Star reporter Andy Richardson recalls the havoc caused across the region by last summer’s floods and how people have coped since.
Initially, people moaned. "Damn the British weather", was a popular refrain last summer as rains fell during the early weeks in June. But on June 19, the situation became more serious. Freak thunderstorms began to wreak havoc across Shropshire.
The first casualties were Hampton Loade and the Severn Valley Railway. The road at Hampton Loade was washed away as heavy rains soaked the ground and undermined footings.
Severn Valley Railway was forced to close after cascading water washed away nine sections of line and damaged almost 30 more.
There was widespread shock. John Leach, spokesman for the Severn Valley Railway, says: "It was a freak storm, that’s all. But the ground was already very wet from persistent rain, so it couldn’t cope with the storm water. The devastation was incredible. Years and years of hard work were washed away overnight."
Embankments at Highley, Hampton Loade, Oldbury Viaduct and Victoria Bridge were swept away. In places, complete sections of the trackbed were washed away, leaving rails suspended in mid-air.
The problems were not confined to Bridgnorth or Hampton Loade. On June 19 and 20, parts of Shifnal flooded. Other nearby villages were also hard hit.
Relief crews started repairs. But, although nobody realised it at the time, the problems were only just starting. A terrible storm on the evening of June 25 brought unprecedented misery. The epicentre was over the south of the county. Previously unimaginable volumes of water washed into local rivers like the Teme, Corve and Onny. They could not cope.
At about 9pm on June 25 the River Corve, in Ludlow, burst its banks. Water washed into local homes. The emergency services called John Bryan, emergency planning officer at South Shropshire District Council.
Mr Bryan says: "The call came through in mid-evening. We had contingency plans and we put them into operation. Some sandbags had been taken out in preparation for flooding. But they were powerless to prevent what happened next. Nobody envisaged the extent of the floods. The River Corve rose 5ft within 25 minutes."
Water washed into homes, reaching 5ft at some properties. People were plucked to safety by fire crews, who used boats to gain access to properties. Some residents were taken from first floor windows, their possessions left to float downstream. In all, more than 70 people were rescued and 1,000 properties were swamped by water.
Elsewhere, residents were taken to safety from Telford and from villages near Bridgnorth. In Alveley, the garden and 250-year-old waterfall were washed away at Ray and Diann Scriven’s paper mill home. They are still living with the devastation.
North Shropshire firefighters carried out a rescue at Longslow, near Market Drayton, and saved homes from flooding at Hinstock. Firefighters helped save two men whose BMW broke down in 3ft of flood water. The men could not open the vehicle’s doors after it became stuck in the water and about nine firefighters pushed it to safety with the men still inside. Tenbury Wells was virtually sealed off and parts of the A49 became impassable.
In Much Wenlock, drains erupted and water poured into homes. Town councillor Simon Ross got into his coracle to rescue an elderly lady stranded in her home. In Worfield, eight residents were rescued from homes in Mill Close.
Ludlow, however, bore the brunt. Sheep that had huddled in the highest points of fields were drowned. The waters continued to rise and left a trail of mayhem. They scoured out the foundations of Burway Bridge, precipitating its collapse at 2am on June 26. Two policemen were standing guard when it happened. The previous evening’s floods had effectively drilled out the river bed to a depth of 20ft, critically undermining the bridge. The collapse severed a gas main and the surrounding area was evacuated.
John Bryan adds: "The police had stayed near to the bridge for security and surveillance. They were standing near the bridge when it went. They heard a few cracks, then a few electric cables sparked and the bridge went. A gas main was built into the bridge and that was severed. The emergency services had to get people out. There was a real risk of explosion."
Mr Bryan says: "When the bridge went, we needed to do more. We’d already opened the leisure centre but people couldn’t get to it. We knew someone who worked at Tesco so, in the nicest possible way, we commandeered its cafe." Other Ludlow areas, like Temeside, were also flooded and homes surrounded by muddy water.
The relief effort started at daybreak. In south Shropshire, binmen were taken off their rounds and instructed to fill sandbags. The district’s normal supply of 400 was increased to 4,000.
The aftershocks continued. On June 27, Sol and Dereen Pearce’s Ludlow home was washed away.
Their grandson stood by, helpless, yards from 57a Corve Street as it tumbled into the water during the middle of the morning. Its foundations had been scoured away by the river. The moment was captured on video camera by one passerby.
For some weeks, the partly fallen property became a grim tourist attraction, people gawping from the roadside at the Pearce’s pink-coloured bedding and decimated home. The property was eventually dismantled, brick by brick.
The plot was then levelled and sold at auction to a local resident, for use as a garden. Sol and Dereen Pearce moved to a new house, near Fishmore Hall, and made a new start. There were other consequences. Ludlow Festival experienced five-figure losses as visitors stayed away.
Jenny Vaughan, festival chairman, said: "People saw the flood pictures on TV and assumed Ludlow was closed. One of the performers even called because they believed the town had been sealed off, almost like a castle within a moat."
Agricultural shows across the county were called off, the victim of sodden fields. On July 1, a woman was pulled from the swollen River Severn at Jackfield, near Ironbridge. In towns like Ludlow, Tenbury Wells and Much Wenlock, a new relief effort began. Vehicle after vehicle hauled away people’s ruined furniture. Civic amenity sites were filled with old fridges, cookers, sofas and personal possessions.
As July wore on, relief crews made progress. But further rain brought renewed flooding. This time, the town worst affected was Tenbury Wells. The town had already been flooded in June.
But in July, on two separate occasions, water washed through the town. Some businesses have failed to reopen, some residents have not returned home. In Ludlow on July 24 the UK National Ballooning Championships was cancelled for the first time in its 32-year history.
The devastation in south Shropshire caused ministerial concern. Minister for Transport Tom Harris was called to Ludlow, and Government minister Liam Byrne met people like Sol and Dereen Pearce.
Campaigners worked to put things right. The South Shropshire Furniture Scheme gave aid to uninsured families who had lost everything. Kind-hearted residents donated white goods and clothes. Councillor Martin Taylor-Smith, Ludlow’s floods supremo, secured tens of thousands of pounds in Government grants and similar sums from well-wishers.
Councillor Taylor-Smith said: "Looking back, it’s difficult to appreciate what people went through. The human cost was almost overwhelming. But we were fortunate so many people rallied to help."
The floods have profoundly changed the county of Shropshire. Local plann ing committees are less inclined to grant permission for new developments on flood plains, parish councils have severe weather early warning systems and councils have thousands more sandbags for localised flooding. New plans are being made to help towns and villages deal with flash flooding, water courses are cleared more regularly and engineers are devising flood-proof infrastructure.
One year on, the floods of 2007 are anything but a distant memory. People like the Pearces, the traders of Tenbury Wells, the Scriven family, Rosemary Wood, volunteers at Severn Valley Railway and thousands more live with the consequences every day.