Tag Archives: flood

Flood defence — the prelude

Wednesday 15th September 2021, 10.25am (day 3,674)

Old Gate fences, 15/9/21

These fences along Old Gate are, doubtless, the prelude to the building of new flood defences in the town. Now one might consider this a good thing, particularly if one’s property has ended up under water on one of the four occasions (count ’em) that the town centre has been inundated even just in the lifetime of this blog (June 2012, July ’12, Dec ’15, Feb ’20).

But in the first place, one can question the necessity of these works — or at least, wonder why they have been prioritised over known strategies of flood prevention that could take place on the moors above the town. But that land is all owned by the Walshaw estate, who want to continue burning heather and ensuring the peat bogs don’t hold the rain that falls, because it’s uneconomic for them to do that; so they push the problem down-valley, and now Heben will push it further down, and unless we build walls all the way down to the North Sea, some poor bastard will get that water in the end.

Second, all this will most likely turn the pleasant, leafy environs of the Hebden Water into a stripped-bare drainage channel — as similar ones have in Mytholmroyd. If the foliage in the background of this shot is still there in a few months’ time, I will take this back. But I doubt it. So the attractiveness of the town centre (and it does matter — many of the shops here would not exist without tourism) will be ruined, and we’ll still be blind to the real causes of the problem; bad land management and climate change.

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Detritus

Friday 14th February 2020, 6.45pm (day 3,095)

Flood waste, 14/2/20

The flood came, and it went away again, and what it left behind are these piles of debris that were not carried there by the water directly, but removed from properties and left by the sides of roads and streets, just as in 2015. It’ll happen again, at some point, because the government does not care about the chronic water management problems of this place and the known reasons behind them.

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Ciara comes

Sunday 9th February 2020, 10.20am (day 3,090)

Storm Ciara, 9/2/20

I know this is a lousy picture. I’m sorry. It’s a lousy picture to have been in a position to take, too. All previous eulogies to the good weather of 2020 were decisively blown away overnight and this morning by Storm Ciara, a vicious little wannabe hurricane that blasted in, savagely dumped its load on Hebden Bridge and left the town, for the fourth time in the last eight years, under a layer of water [*]. I could have gone outside and taken pictures of the flooding but if you’ll forgive me, the prospect was too depressing. If I abrogate my duty as some kind of social commentator by doing so, my apologies — the vultures in their TV vans will doubtless be supplying the world with pictures of it all soon enough; while evading the real issues and reasons behind flooding, which are (around here anyway) to do with inequalities of power and status. And yet people vote Conservative, over and over again.

[*] The three previous occasions in the lifetime of this blog were 22/6/129/7/12 — and 26/12/15.

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Flood defence works, Mytholmroyd

Wednesday 7th November 2018, 3.35pm (day 2,631)

Flood defence works, 7/11/18

Not actually a third monochrome shot in a row, although it might as well be on a dull, grey November day. Nearly three years after Mytholmroyd (along with much of the rest of the Calder Valley) was sunk beneath more than two metres of water on 26th December 2015, the stable door is finally being bolted — so we have been told — thanks to massive flood defence works. These pile drivers and giant screwdrivers currently occupy  half the carriageway of the main road in the village, and at the moment their main effect is to have created a year-long traffic jam along the A646.

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High water, again

Monday 8th February 2016, 1.35pm (day 1,628)

High water, 8/2/16

No weather warnings have been issued and it seems to have stopped raining…. but recent events suggest that we should at least be wary when the river reaches this level. It’s not just about heavy rainfall, either. We should also blame the government — flooding isn’t caused by heavy rain, but by shitty decisions about land use, some of them stretching back centuries. Ah well, seeing as we’ve reached the ‘let’s cross our fingers and hope’ stage of flood prevention, let’s just do that.

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Debris

Monday 28th December 2015, 11.10am (day 1,586)

House debris, 28/12/15

I haven’t felt like taking many pictures over these last three days. Media coverage of natural disasters encourages us to see the flood just as a spectacle, a series of dramatic images, and all these things we do on social media are part of it. Voyeuristic citizen journalism is little different from the voyeuristic corporate kind. I wish I had something else to document, though.

This to me is the saddest sight; virtually every house and business in the town centre now has these piles of stock and/or furniture outside on the pavements, waiting to be cleared.

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Counting the cost

Sunday 27th December 2015, 1.45pm (day 1,585)

Cleaning up again, 27/12/15

UK Prime Minister David Cameron today announced that he would ‘do all he could’ to help the victims of flooding across the north of England.

In June this year, his government’s Climate Change Committee warned that previously unprecedented weather events would become more common and that the UK state was not doing enough to protect its citizens from flooding. In October 2015 Cameron’s government finally responded to this, by announcing that a new flood defense and prevention strategy was “not appropriate” at this time.

In December, two days after the signing of a new international agreement in Paris, aimed at alleviating climate change, UK Chancellor George Osborne slashed all subsidies for renewable energy, while retaining them both for fracking, and for the burning of peat and heather on the moors of northern England, a land ‘management’ strategy that greatly increases run-off of water into the valleys during rain storms.

The gentleman pictured here is the owner of Paradise, a successful and long-established take-away joint in Hebden Bridge. He has just lost £30,000 worth of kitchen equipment from his business; even if he can reopen again he will have to be closed for many weeks. He was uninsured for this, not through neglect, but because the free market in insurance would not deign to cover him or other businesses in Hebden Bridge after the 2012 floods.

Calder Valley has a Conservative Member of Parliament, Craig Whittaker. His email address is craig.whittaker.mp@parliament.uk and his Twitter handle is @CWhittakerMP. I just thought I would mention these things.

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Lake Calder (not normal)

Saturday 26th December 2015. 10.30am (day 1,584)

Hodder lake, 26/12/15

Up until this morning 2015’s had been an entirely agreeable Christmas filled with friends and family old and new, much good cheer and sociability, etc. etc.

This morning things took a definite turn for the worse in the patch of England that lies, more or less, between Manchester, Leeds and Lancaster. Huge amounts of rain have turned much of this region into what you see here. We were scheduled to drive from my sister’s in Sabden to Clare’s parents in Morecambe this morning, and made it, despite some very damp moments on the road and views over scenes such as this. But we were among the luckier ones. Hebden Bridge and the whole Calder Valley, from Walsden down to Mytholmroyd, was today under over a metre (3.3 feet) of water, leading to terrifying scenes like this one, in Mytholmroyd. I do not even want to think about the impact this is going to have on my home town. In 2012 after the last (twin) floods hit several much-loved establishments were closed for months, and today’s floods were far worse. As this photo shows, the shops on the main street were deluged this morning.

The village of Whalley, which has appeared once before on this blog and was hit by flooding a couple of weeks ago, was also devastated again today. The shot I choose to epitomise this very shitty day is one taken as we tried to negotiate our way from Sabden past Whalley, on the A59 road which bypasses the village, and crosses the River Calder  at this point (note: this is not the Calder that runs through Hebden Bridge, but the Lancashire river of the same name; in the first version of this post I misidentified it). As you can see the river has become a literal lake, and many houses in Whalley were evacuated today as a result. Nor do I think the sheep pictured here (lower left) have a great deal longer to live. As far as I know no human lives have been lost in the region today, but it is a frankly terrible situation, that at the moment I do not wish to dwell on very much.

It is all very well to blame capricious nature for this crap, but there are also decisions — to do with land use, water management, pollution — that have been deliberately made over the last couple of centuries of human existence and which are exacerbating natural weather events like this. Today the consequences of these decisions really hit home. I am sure you will see more of this over the next few days, but we have to get home first.

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The clouds burst

Monday 29th July 2013, 4.35pm (day 704)

Near flood, 29/7/13

I have been trying to prevent repetition on this blog but today cannot avoid it. After a fairly ordinary day, a terrific rainstorm makes yesterday’s picture seem like a portent. Showing how well they have learned the lessons since last year’s flooding, blocked drains and manic car drivers turn a heavy, but otherwise manageable thunderstorm into a near-flooding. Poor drainage has hit the cellar of the Railway again and yet it’s all so bloody avoidable.

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Oh. Joy.

Monday 24th September 2012, 5.10pm (day 396)

Sandbags, 24/9/12

Many Hebden Bridge shops that have been closed since the double floods of 22nd June and 9th July are just about getting ready to reopen. But, after three weeks of relatively dry weather, it’s been raining all day again and the rivers are very high. Christ, I hope it doesn’t flood again or some of these shops will probably never re-open. These don’t look the most adequate flood defences in the world.

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