How Huntingdonshire fought back after floods hit last Christmas
- Credit: Andza Alive/ Cambs Fire
What was meant to be the most wonderful time of the year became the worst last Christmas – when devastating floods hit Cambridgeshire on December 23.
It was “the final act in a year of tragedy”, as quite succinctly described at the time, where residents were faced with a third lockdown looming and their homes wrecked.
Prolonged torrential rain brought chaos to the Huntingdonshire area on Christmas Eve.
Many people had to flee their homes, and even major roads, including a section of the A14 had to be closed as the water levels rose.
Storm Bella brought the county to a standstill with fire crews in St Neots out in the community for more than 20 hours with “back-to-back calls”.
The level of flooding experienced in parts of Cambridgeshire was similar to that seen in 1998 but the impact was less severe, the Environment Agency said.
Two elderly drivers from a car and van and four greyhounds that where being transported in the back of the van were some of the first to be rescued.
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The River Great Ouse burst its banks as flood water submerged the streets –with families being evacuated to emergency shelters as homes left around 18 inches underwater.
Hundreds of people stepped in to help residents with sandbags as water levels continued to rise.
Dr Nik Johnson, now the mayor of the combined authority who was a local councillor at the time, said: “In the 48 hours between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, we were witness to an even faster response that kept our riverside communities protected despite the overwhelming sense of impending crisis.”
But it wasn’t over – just less than a month later more torrential rainfall hit the region.
Then came the mammoth clean-up operation as homeowners tried to salvage washed-up possessions and businesses attempted to reopen.
Community spirit helped ease the pain for those struggling the most, but the bleak reality was that many would not return home for more than six months.
The Hunts Post was contacted by dozens of residents expressing their anger at local authorities for not “stepping up” to alleviate the risk of flooding.
Blocked drains, gullies and overflowing sewers were the top of the list for many.
Our “Fight the Floods” campaign was launched to give them a voice while working alongside Cambridgeshire County Council in bid for action.
Thousands of drains were cleared by May and a community action plan put in place, as well as a funding allocation from the annual budget.
Independent local flood alliance groups (FLAGS) were set up in different areas to help residents prepare for any future flooding.
The St Neots FLAG, that was constituted earlier this month, shared the following important information in sight of any future floods.
1. Check if you are at risk of flooding
2. Sign up for free flood warnings
If you live in an area at risk of flooding, get free flood warnings direct to your mobile, home phone or email:
3. Prepare a flood plan
️A list of useful contact numbers - including your local council, utility providers and your insurance company.
️How to shut off your electricity or gas supply.
️Move your valuable belongings to a safe place.
️What would you need to move to safety during a flood – think about your pets, car, furniture.
Who could you ask for help?
Could you offer to help vulnerable friends or neighbours?
4. Prepare a flood kit
Putting together an emergency flood kit with essential items that will help you cope in a flood, including:
Insurance documents and list of contact numbers
Torch & spare batteries
First aid kit and any prescription medicines
Warm waterproof clothes and blankets
Bottled water and snacks
5. Flood protection equipment
Think about making your property resilient to flooding.
️To reduce flood damage, you could lay tiles instead of carpets, move electrical sockets up the wall and fit non-return valves.
️Fitting flood boards to doors and thresholds.