6 Dec 2015

Cumbria floods: the home invasions

A woman from Appleby-in-Westmorland is enjoying a night out in a local hotel in circumstances she would never have wanted: her home is flooded.

The invasion? The filthy, stinking floodwaters that have inundated so many homes across Cumbria: the Desmond Deluge.

Where Appleby’s main street used to be, Neil Dawson looks out on a fast-moving, caramel-coloured lake.

“My flat’s down there,” he gestures into the boiling, brown River Eden. “Only been in three weeks. I hadn’t got round to sorting out the insurance. Now I can’t get to work either because it’s on the other side.”

Also standing in wellies at the edge of the flow is the town rector, Reverend Sarah Lunn.

She tells me they spent £100,000 raised for flood defences for the church. They said they must be eight inches above the previous record flood level.

They were. It was not enough.

Nor in Keswick, where the plaque notes the opening of new defences against a bend on the River Greta.

Nor in Cockermouth, flooded out in 2009, new flood defences in 2013 and flooded all over again where two rivers meet in the town in 2015. At what point do planners begin planning for the unthinkable and work on something bigger than unthinkable? Because present models of flood defence are plainly not working. Across the morning, we watched the victims of this clear failure of planning models. “It was the most terrifying thing of my life,” Sydney Hassell told me. “Six feet of water and a really strong smell of gas.” He is helped from his place by the local Mountain Rescue Team – as so many across Cumbria have been.

So it is that I covered the historic floods in Cumbria in 2009 and now find myself in waders again for the 2015 more-historic event.

There’s a pattern, no?

I predict I shall be here in two to five years for the more-more-historic event.

Isn’t that what we should now finally be planning for?


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