Floods cause havoc

VILLAGERS in the Thirsk area have been left counting the cost after flash floods devastated their communities on Sunday evening.

With a month's rain – 70mm – falling in just three hours, quiet streams were turned into raging torrents that swept all before them.

Miraculously, there were no fatalities, but the cost of damage has been put at many millions of pounds.

Among the places to be badly affected were the villages of Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe, Thirlby, Balk and Boltby.

In Thirsk itself, about 50 homes and businesses were flooded, while Helmsley and Hawnby were also badly affected.

Among the dramatic rescue stories to emerge was that of Thirlby man Paul Walkland, who tried to prevent his pickup truck being carried away by the torrent by tying it to a tree.

But he was nearly swept away himself as a gush of water pinned him against a wall and he suddenly found himself up to his neck in water.

His father, David Walkland, threw him a rope to pull him back to safety.

And in Balk, musician Rafe Lean saved the life of his friend Chris Tebbutt, who "froze with fear" as his car was being swept down the road towards the steep bank of a stream.

Mr Lean waded through waist-deep water to get to the car.

He said: "It was awful. I thought the car was just about to go off the side of the road, but I kept talking to him and eventually gave him the confidence to get out of the car."

But the flood water entered Mr Lean's rented house, which was not insured for its contents, and he has lost at least 20,000 worth of equipment.

In Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe, flood water filled the home of retired headteacher Ruth Mitchell, 89, to a depth of 10ft and she had to be rescued from upstairs by two firefighters.

The firefighters then returned to rescue her cat, Whiskers, who was found floating on a chair in the kitchen.

She said: "It just rained and rained and rained. Suddenly the beck started to come up, and when it began bubbling up the sink I realised I had to do something.

“I thought it was common sense to go upstairs, but I thought it would stop.”

The floods also caused widespread damage to roads and bridges and engineers were this week assessing the damage and carrying out repairs.

Electricity supplies to more than 38,000 properties in the region were also affected by Sunday's storms, with all reconnected by Tuesday.

Anne McIntosh, MP for the Vale of York, this week sent her deepest regrets and sympathy to those affected by the flash-flooding.

She has had briefings with the agencies involved on the extent and the effects of the flood damage.

“My main concern is that any such damage caused by the flash flooding should be kept to a minimum through a regular maintenance programme of clearing drains and waterways,” she said.

“Of course, those that have been directly affected will be eligible for insurance losses but my fear is, in the case of farmland, losses may be uninsurable.

“I will be liaising with the NFU, CLA, Tenant Farmers Association and others to investigate what action can be taken to save the crops or retrieve their value.”

A public meeting in Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe with representatives of various agencies on Tuesday evening heard concerns about the amount of debris now in the beck and the risk of future flooding. Mike Johnson, manager of the Whitestonecliffe Inn, offered to co-ordinate a working party to clear the debris in the fields and the beck with the agencies concerned.

Speculation that flooding was compounded by a burst in the dam at nearby Boltby Reservoir was dismissed at the meeting by Yorkshire Water, which said the dam was fully intact, although there was some erosion damage.

Contractors have been engaged to carry out temporary remedial works at the reservoir. The Environment Agency has also urged people hit by flooding to help it understand what happened in a bid to avoid similar damage happening again. People are being asked to fill in a questionnaire prepared by the agency, with copies available by contacting 01904 822537.

l Turn to page 5 for more reports and pictures on the flooding.