Residents continue to re-build their lives after devastating floods

St Michals school field - floods
St Michals school field - floods
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SANDBAGS and skips still line the streets of St Michaels - the flood water may have gone but the destruction remains.

The village, which was devastated by the December storms, bears the scar of the flooding, with many local people still months away from being back in their homes.

St Michaels school being cleared on things damaged by the floods

St Michaels school being cleared on things damaged by the floods

Walking down Blackpool Road, one of the worst affected areas, the street has a vacant feel because of so many empty houses - despite being more than two months after Storm Desmond.

Families’ worldly possessions are being piled into skips as their houses are gutted by tradesmen hired by insurers, while they stay in hotels across the borough.

Also on the road is the badly affected village hall. Chairman Lawrence Turner explains how he has several options to consider when it comes to restoring the water-logged building.

“We’d just spent £46,000 to fix the roof after someone stole our slate,” Lawrence said. “Now we’re looking at spending £120,000 to get the hall back up and running again. We’re lucky because it’s covered by insurance but we do have a few ways we could go.”

St Michael's Village Hall after the flooding

St Michael's Village Hall after the flooding

The hall is filled with fans and dehumidifiers, completely carpetless and has marks up the walls showing how high the water rose.

Lawrence said: “It’s incredible that the water came across three and a half square miles before reaching here. It all comes from the Brock river and was still a foot high around the building. I was in London being treated by my daughter at the time of the floods and got an urgent call to get back. After four hours driving I came in to find parts of the floor floating. The wonderful floor was ruined and the kitchen, which had only recently been donated and fitted, will now need to be completely pulled out and replaced.”

Pictures from the time show the building and car park engulfed in water and three skips at the back of the building hold most of the hall’s contents.

“My daughters had their 18th and 21st birthdays here so I have very fond memories of the place. All sorts of groups use the hall from dancing and crafts to drama and coffee mornings. They’re all without a place to go for the foreseeable future.”

St Michaels during the floods in December

St Michaels during the floods in December

When asked about the future of the hall, Lawrence admits he may have some tough decisions to make.

He said: “We’ve basically been told the hall is unsustainable because of course it will flood again. We’ve been lucky it’s been 35 years since the last major floods but I’m sure our insurance will rise considerably after this. There’s still no timescale as to when we’ll be back open but we have three options. One is to continue as we are and renovate the hall. Two, is to put money into flood defences to try and lessen the damage next time and three is to rebuild the hall completely and build it several feet off the ground. At the moment we’re going ahead with one but it’ll be up to the committee to decide.”

Lawrence lives just a few houses down from the hall and nearly had his own flooding nightmare to deal with. The 68-year-old came home to find his garden under water.

“It’s my pride and joy so it has been ruined but we were very fortunate that it didn’t quite get into the house. My wife’s car was just starting to go under but we managed to get it out of the water just in time. We have a balcony overlooking our gardens and the fields and we just stood and looked at the amount of water surrounding us. Extraordinary amount and it has been terrible for so many people.”

St Michaels during the floods in December

St Michaels during the floods in December

But some weren’t so lucky. Some homes have insurance, but don’t have the finances to pay the hefty excess fees - some rising as high as £10,000.

Others like Sam Collinson, 36, who also lives on Blackpool Road, are forced to fend for themselves with insurance just too expensive to even consider.

“The house was under water but we didn’t have insurance so we just had to get our belongings out the way,” said 36-year-old Sam, who lives with his wife Antonia.

“We’re just having to live amongst the damage because there’s no other choice. There’s so many hidden costs! Our fuel bills have gone up from having the heating on to dry the house, we’ll have to re-plaster, there’s damp, mould and the floors need re-doing.

“The road outside has also been ruined and we’re still waiting on someone to come and fix it. We’ve even had to trade our car in for a 4x4 just to make it easier to get in and out from our house But we were still one of the lucky ones. We’re still living in our home and haven’t had our lives turned upside down so we have to be thankful for that, many are much worse off than us.”

The relief effort has come from many angles with Wyre Council and the Environment Agency helping people defend as well as refurbish their homes after the disaster.

Prince Harry even visited the village last week to see how the relief effort was progressing. He looked round several flood hit homes, including that of Carolyn and Alan Bailey.

Helping hands have also been extended across the county but none more so than by the village’s own pub, The Grapes. The business offered refuge to those forced out of their homes as well as hot food and drinks. It has also given the victims somewhere to go for advice and information with many post-flood events held in the Garstang Road pub.

And owner Gary Wright, 45, says he was doing “what any good neighbour would”.

He said: “We weren’t affected by the floods ourselves although business dipped due to the roads being closed. With being in the middle of the village, it just seemed the natural thing to offer it up for people to come here.

“We’re a big part of the village community and we wanted to help as much as we could.

“No-one needed to stay overnight here but we did have a motor home use the car park while the caravan park cleared the water. It’s been a real struggle for lots of people but there’s been a great community spirit throughout. People have been offering to help wherever they could and lots have taken in neighbours while they look for somewhere to stay.”

Others have been quick to help too, with the local primary school now being homed at Myerscough College. St Michaels on Wyre Primary School’s 127 pupils will now be taught in three purpose-built portable cabins by the 21 staff all at the Bilsborrow College. And headteacher Cathy Brough says the school has been warmly welcomed.

She said: “Everyone at Myerscough has been amazing and we’re settling in well, we’ve even got our own playground. The school building is progressing well. We’re drying it out at the moment before contractors come in to do the work that’s needed to get it back open.

“We’re hoping to be back in by the end of April but that all depends on how much work needs doing and how long the work takes. We’re happy at Myerscough at the moment and can do everything we need to here so we won’t rush and we’ll make sure we get everything right.”

And Mrs Brough has also praised the people of the village and its “extraordinary” community spirit.

“At the fundraiser at the Wyrebank we had 250 people there which was brilliant,” Mrs Brough said. “Not just the money which was raised but just people of the village getting together. The support we have received has been unbelievable and to see everyone pulling together has been brilliant.”