Flooding is 'final act in year of tragedy' as district is underwater for Christmas

Fire crews flood rescue

Fire crews rescue dogs submerged in flood water in St Neots on Christmas Eve. - Credit: Cambs Fire and Rescue

Flooding across Huntingdonshire saw roads turn into rivers and fields appear like lakes as heavy rainfall submerged the district over Christmas. 

Several flood warnings were in place in Cambridgeshire after Storm Bella hit the region on Wednesday evening (December 23) and left roads impassable. 

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service received 336 flood-related calls - with Alconbury and Ramsey initially being the hardest-hit areas. 

It even meant part of the A14 had to shut on Christmas Eve. 

The Great Ouse burst its banks as flood water submerged the streets of St Ives and St Neots – with families being evacuated to emergency shelters as homes were left around 18 inches underwater. 

Cllr Dr Nik Johnson, who is district councillor for St Neots East, said the Christmas floods were “the final act in a year of drama and Covid tragedy like we have never experienced in our lifetimes”. 

Flooding in St Ives

Flooding in St Ives as Great Ouse burst its banks. - Credit: Cambs Police

Hundreds of people stepped in to help residents in St Neots with sandbags as water levels rose. 

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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. 

The team warned people not to walk through flood water as it “contains hidden dangers such as lifted manhole covers, sharp objects & chemicals”.

Fire crews in St Neots were out in the community for more than 20 hours with “back-to-back calls” for flooding events during the Christmas period. 

Two elderly drivers from a car and van and four grey hounds that where being transported in the back of the van were also rescued. 

As of Tuesday (December 29), three flood warnings remain in place for areas where flooding is expected from the Great Ouse, in low lying areas surrounding St Ives. 

The Government flooding information service said: “River levels are falling at the St Ives river gauge however remain high.  

“This means that the current risk of flooding remains. We expect flooding to affect London Road and Enderbys Wharf in St Ives.  

“Further rainfall is possible on Thursday December 31 and Friday January 1, so we expect river levels to remain high. We are closely monitoring the situation. 

“Please avoid using low lying footpaths near local watercourses and plan driving routes to avoid low lying roads near rivers, which may be flooded.  

“The gates in the St Ives and Hemingfords flood defence scheme remain closed.” 

Flooding in Hollywell

Flooding in Hollywell, near Huntingdon, as pictured on December 28. - Credit: Cambs Police

It comes just four months after flash floods hit St Neots in the summer. 

Cllr Dr Nik Johnson said the enormity of the flooding “could not be underestimated and needed a different approach”. 

He explained: “In the 48 hours between Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, we were witness to an even faster response that kept our riverside communities protected despite the overwhelming sense of impending crisis. 

“The list of individuals, local companies and organisations that went above and beyond, working through the night, soaked to the skin, delivering sand bags to homes under threat - all in very challenging circumstances. 

“This out pouring of compassion and cooperation is a badge of honour that our communities can be justifiably proud. 

“Our local councils - town, district, county alongside the combined authority - are working collaboratively with the Environment Agency.

"We need to commit to an independent review of recent events and commit to a future plan for flood risk planning.” 

Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) recommended homeowners to contact their insurer’s emergency number as soon as possible if their property had been flooded. 

The team took more than 100 calls on December 23 and distributed 329 sandbags to vulnerable households finishing at 2am on Christmas Eve.  

A council spokesperson said: “Please stay vigilant over the coming days and continue to monitor local flood warnings, the council and local emergency partners are responding and will continue to prepare and support.” 

Cambridgeshire Police urged residents to take care as water levels remain high.