Picture special: Warning over danger to lives as severe flooding hits Yorkshire and Lancashire
SEVERE FLOODING has hit Yorkshire and Lancashire following torrential downpours over the Christmas period amid growing fears that the rising waters could place lives in danger.
A second red weather warning - danger to life - was issued by the Met Office in the wake of the heavy rainfall which swept across the North of England on Christmas Day and into Boxing Day.
Two of the Met Office’s rare “take action” alerts are currently in place and the Environment Agency (EA) at one point issued six severe warnings for York and nine for Leeds alone.
The worst could be yet to come for York as the Environment Agency suggests river levels could continue to rise until Monday, while Leeds remained on red alert last night as the River Aire rose to record levels.
Earlier on Saturday, residents were evacuated as Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire was cut off by several feet of flood water.
Flood sirens alerted the Calderdale town to the rising waters at about 7am on Boxing Day.
The centre of the town was completely under water, with residents worried levels would rise further as the rain continued to fall.
One resident, who did not want to be named, said a man had to be rescued after he tried to drive a Land Rover into the water.
He said: “He turned left after coming over the bridge and we just watched horrified as his car was dragged back towards us.”
The man said emergency services had to use a boat to get to the stranded vehicle before smashing the sun-roof and pulling the driver from the car.
He added: “It’s horrible. It was last flooded in 2012 and this is worse than it was back then.”
The man said most of the buildings flooded were businesses but there were a few rows of terraced houses which had been evacuated.
Helen McGarry, 43, who lives just a few feet away from the flood, said she was worried the water would continue to rise.
Mrs McGarry said she had lived in Mytholmroyd for about 13 years and had never seen the river so high.
She said: “We’re slightly concerned at the moment because, for the first time ever, the river’s actually come up to our back steps.
“So, for the first time ever, yes, I’m really worried. I’ve never seen it this bad, ever.”
Emergency services gathered in the town and a search-and-rescue helicopter could be seen circling around the town before appearing to winch someone from a house.
Cars were left abandoned in car parks, nearly entirely covered by the flood, and water lapped against the lower windows of houses, pubs and shops. A bus stop sign could barely be seen above the water.
The River Calder had burst its banks further out of the town, flooding the grounds of the Mytholmroyd Cricket Club and a nearby football pitch.
A couple of miles away, a row of bungalows next to the river and the Rochdale Canal had been flooded and the Luddenden Foot Bowling Club was also under water.
Sirens could be heard throughout the day as emergency vehicles tried to make their way through flooded roads and small country lanes turned into streams as torrents of water rushed from the hillsides and fields on to the ground below.
Todmorden in West Yorkshire was also hit and the waters are continuing to rise as the rain keeps falling.
Resident Lee Fraser, who lives on Halifax Road, said the road between the town and the neighbouring village of Hebden is submerged.
“It’s getting worse and worse, it’s been raining really heavily since last night,” he added.
“The siren went off at about 7am this morning and 10 minutes later everything started flooding.
“A lot of people are moving their stuff upstairs in their houses and the police came and closed the roads.
“It’s absolutely tipping it down, so it’s only going to get worse by the look of it.”
Todmorden resident Rebecca Marshall said the town has been totally cut off after all the roads were closed and the flood water is “inches” from the top of the defence wall.
She is stuck in her home without electricity after floodwaters started rising up through the floorboards.
“At the moment in our house it’s ankle deep,” she said.
“There’s about three feet of water outside our door. With no electricity we will have to move out.
“All the roads in and out of Todmorden have been closed, I don’t think we can get out of the town.”
She added that family and friends had rallied around to offer support and praised the strong sense of community in the town.
“All we can do is go up and down the road to try and make sure everyone is alright,” she said.
“We have had friends and family turn up from all over the place offering to help.”
Villagers in Tockwith, just outside Wetherby, spent much of Boxing Day shovelling, sweeping and pumping water from their gardens and streets as flood waters reached record highs. Residents used social media site Facebook to co-ordinate the clean-up operation as people from nearby areas gave assistance.
Forecasters said up to 4.7ins (120mm) of rain could fall in some areas already saturated by wave after wave of winter squalls. The average rainfall for the whole of December in the North West is 5.7ins (145mm).
The EA had issued 20 severe flood warnings and 227 warnings for flooding across the north on Saturday and Sunday.
Heavy rains are expected to affect Calderdale, Airedale (from Skipton to Leeds) and North Yorkshire including York, Pateley Bridge and Catterick.
A spokesman said: “The rain has fallen on areas where the ground is already saturated and river levels are very high.
“Our teams are out working with partners to support communities and reduce the risk of flooding as far as possible.
“We are urging people to listen out for sirens and stay tuned to local media and take action when necessary.”
Flood sirens have already been sounded at Walsden, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd in Calderdale.
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service warned people to stay away from the Whalley and Ribchester areas.
“A severe flood warning means danger to life. It doesn’t mean ‘come and have a look’. Please don’t come to visit Whalley or Ribchester now,” the service said in a tweet.
Alison Baptiste, Flood Duty Manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Our thoughts are with all those who’ve been coping with serious flooding to their homes and businesses repeatedly over Christmas and those who face the risk of further flooding.
On Boxing Day we have issued several severe flood warnings meaning a risk to life, we urge people to check their flood risk, prepare for flooding, follow advice from emergency services and never to risk driving through flood water.
Environment Agency staff have been working around the clock throughout Christmas with our emergency response partners and the help of the military in Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire to help reduce the potential impacts of flooding and support those communities affected.”
Lancashire Fire also posted details of an emergency evacuation centre for evacuated residents.
A number of Boxing Day football and racing events were called off because of the floods, including the Blackburn Rovers fixture.
The match between Blackpool and Oldham was postponed, as were the games between Hartlepool and Notts County, Morecambe and Mansfield and Accrington and Carlisle.
Officials at Wetherby races cancelled both days of their Christmas card and Saturday afternoon’s meeting at Limerick has also been abandoned.
The annual Boxing Day pilgrimage from Ripon to nearby Fountains Abbey also had to be cancelled.
The severe flood warnings - the EA’s highest level of warning - are for two locations on the River Ribble at Ribchester, three locations on the River Calder at Whalley and two on the River Wyre at St Michaels.
The Government’s emergency Cobra committee met on Christmas Day while a company from the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, helped communities across the North West build miles of temporary flood defences.
The EA said 85 per cent of the country’s temporary flood barriers had been sent to Cumbria, where rainfall has smashed records, and the Lakeland region braced itself again ahead of the deluge.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued five flood alerts and 16 flood warnings.
Flood warnings extended across northern Britain, including the Calder in West Yorkshire and the Ribble, Wyre and Wenning in North Yorkshire. Pendle Water, Pimlico Brook, the Burrow and Hellifield Beck were also at risk of bursting their banks, the EA warned.
The Met Office issued a yellow warning of rain for parts of north Wales, northern England and southern Scotland.
Floods Minister Rory Stewart said that rainfall levels in the flood-hit areas were unprecedented.
“We’re looking potentially again today at maybe a month’s rainfall coming in a day. That’s falling on ground that’s very saturated. As the rain falls, the rivers respond very quickly,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
In the Outer Hebrides, CalMac ferry sailings were cancelled for the day in North Uist and South Uist. Services have also been affected on Bute and the Isle of Lewis.
A man has drowned after being pulled out of the water at Bridlington Harbour on Christmas Day.
Bridlington Coastguard were called out at 8.14pm along with the RNLI, Yorkshire Ambulance Service and Humberside Police.
Police say the man died a short time later.