We take a look at how communities are finally getting their lives back one year after Boxing Day floods
One year on from the Boxing Day floods, communities and families are only just starting to see their old lives take shape.
Lancashire was battered by three separate storms across December but the Wyre village of St Michael’s was one of the worst hit areas.
In 2015, Storm Desmond struck on December 9, Storm Eva hit on Christmas Eve and just as families thought the devastation was over, another storm hit on December 26 to complete their misery.
But now the villagers are looking forward to a happier festive period.
Pam and John Nickols spent last Christmas in rented accommodation, meaning no family or friends could visit.
This year they’re back in their fully refurbished home and say “it’s nice to be back from exile”.
Pam said: “We’ve been sat at home thinking how nice it is to be dry again. It’s always nice to be in your space, looking at your garden, sat in your own living room.
“We had a party to celebrate getting back into our home after being away from it for nine months. That went really well and there was lots of people who had either been flooded or had helped us out.
“The weather hasn’t been great really and its trying to be festive but hopefully we’ll be dry going into 2017.”
Sam Collinson saw his home under water and endured a torrid time trying to get him and his wife Antonia back on their feet.
But now the 36-year-old from Blackpool Road, one of the worst affected areas, is hoping the village can move on from the disaster.
He said: “Our home was left under water by the floods and because we had no insurance we just had to try and save our possessions. We just had to live with the damage for quite a while but over the year we’ve slowly worked our way through the house and its beginning to look a bit more normal.
“I think most people in the village are just looking to move on with their lives and hope that the work that has been done is enough to stop it happening again. This Christmas has been very different to last, but obviously in a good way - we’re just hoping that continues.”
The relief effort came from many angles with Wyre Council and the Environment Agency helping people defend as well as refurbish their homes after the disaster.
In the past year, The Environment Agency has spent £121m in Lancashire alone to repair the damage and to better protect the 33,000 affected homes from further flooding.
Prince Harry even visited the village in February to see how the relief effort was progressing and was greeted with a community spirit which locals say has helped them get past the disasters.
Lawrence Turner, chairman of the flooded St Michael’s on Wyre Village Hall, said: “The hall is now looking better than ever and I know many homes throughout the village are getting that way too. It’s been a tough year for lots of us in St Michael’s and I know lots of us are hoping for looking forward to what we hope will be a much drier festive period. Lots of people will be enjoying Christmas but they’ll also be crossing their fingers there’s no repeat of last year.”
And to make sure nothing on that scale happens again, Wyre Council wants everyone in the borough to check their flood risk and to take some simple steps to protect themselves should the worst happen.
Coun Roger Berry, cabinet member with responsibility for flooding at Wyre Council, said: “One in six properties is at risk of flooding and a quick online post code checker can tell you your risk level.
“There are simple steps you can take now that could make all the difference in a flood, such as signing up to receive flood warnings from the Environment Agency, putting together a flood kit and collating emergency contact numbers and essential documents.
“If you live in a flood risk area, flood protection equipment must now be considered as an essential and valued asset for your property. Please don’t wait until flooding is imminent as you simply won’t have time to buy or put the measures in place.”
County Coun Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, added: “The December 2015 floods were the worst not just in living memory, but in the history of Lancashire. They affected more than 200 communities and as well as causing distress and disruption to homeowners and businesses, they also damaged critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges and electricity supply.
“The agencies responsible for managing the risk of flooding have been working very hard together to understand how each individual flooding incident happened and to take action to manage or reduce the risk of it happening again. “This has been a huge task and the agencies involved have had to make decisions around where to prioritise resources, so there is more detail relating to some communities than others.
And the damage even forced the village to create St Michael’s Flood Action Group (FLAG) which manages and inspects the work going on to improve flood defences as well as providing support for those affected.
To find out more, to join the group or to go to the next meeting you can email [email protected]
To sign up for Flood Warnings, visit www.gov.uk/flood or call Floodline on 0345 988 1188.