Friday, November 20, 2009

The Cockermouth floods

When I eventually switched on my computer my inbox was full of messages of concern about our well-being. Cockermouth has made the news around the world for the flooding that has overwhelmed the town centre. Fortunately our house is at one of the higher points in the town, well above the water level. The main effects the disaster has had on us have been a couple of power cuts, a night disturbed by the sound of helicopters and emergency sirens, no access to the shops and the broadband internet not working. I am sending this from a netbook using a 3G mobile broadband dongle.

Cockermouth has flooded before, twice in the last few years, but this is probably the worst flooding since 1938. This time, the river Derwent flooded Main Street to a height of up to two metres during the night. By the time we took the picture above, late this morning, the water level had fallen by more than a metre. The pressure of the water had shattered shop windows, washing all the stock to the back, and we could see the tide mark left high on the wall by the water.

Cockermouth has many unique, independent businesses including a surprisingly large bookshop - only recently refurbished - several quality clothing shops, and shops selling hand made arts and crafts. It is normally a wonderful place to do Christmas shopping. All of these businesses are ruined, with little hope of recovery in time for Christmas. The word tragedy cannot begin to describe what this is for these small businesses.

The Christmas lights are up and the tree in place ready for the official switch-on of the illuminations this Sunday. Even if the water subsides by then - and more rain is forecast for tomorrow - I doubt if that is now going to happen.

Another casualty of the floods was Wordsworth House (seen above), birthplace of the famous English poet William Wordsworth and a major tourist attraction now in the care of the National Trust and open to the public as a museum. Olga works there one morning a week as a volunteer. We saw the custodian who said that the water level had been as high as the top of the wall. It is not yet known what damage has been done and what historical artefacts have been ruined or lost.

My heart goes out to the people who live near the river who have only just had their homes dried out after the last, much less severe, flooding.

As I write this, the rescue work still goes on. Helicopters still occasionally fly overhead, and you can still occasionally hear sirens. More heavy rain is forecast for tomorrow.

But it will take months for properties inundated by water to dry out and become habitable again, months for businesses to start up again - if they ever do - and months for the town to return to normal. This is, in the truest sense of the word, a disaster.


Paul Stam PAØK said...

Hello Julian, indeed a tragedy and disaster for all those people who has water damage. Our thread is the sea. We live here below sea level and the only natural protection are the dunes. When the sea level increase in the coming years we'll have to move out here. 73 Paul PC4T

PE4BAS, Bas said...

Hi Julian, Cockermouth was on our national 8 O'clock news on TV. I was immediatly thinking of you. And I did read your blog I was not the only one. I'm glad your house is on one of the heigh places there. A tragedy for all those that had a bussines just before Christmas...Hope there are not too many personal injuries, that's most important. 73, Bas

Jspiker said...

Hello Julian,

I was stuned as I watched the news this evening and saw the flooding in your town. I'm very relieved to hear you and Olga are safe and well above the water levels. I have another radio friend in Norfolk VA that just underwent similiar conditions.

We have a lot of flooding here in WV but nothing like the river running directly thru your town. I hope the rains cease and your life returns to normal soon.

You will be in our thoughts and prayers.

John N8ZYA

Steve GW7AAV said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve GW7AAV said...

Hi Julian,

You reminded me of 1990 and the floods at Towyn. Flintshire Raynet then known as East Clwyd, all four Gwynedd Groups along with Wirral Group assisting West Clwyd RAYNET for five days and nights handling many hundreds (probably thousands) of emergency radio traffic for police, social services, doctors, relief centres, homeless, clothing requests, food, clothes washing and drying, baby needs, abandoned pets among many others. The list was almost endless. Some of our guys did 36 hours straight without going home or sleeping and surviving on the odd bite to eat and drink provided by WRVS taken on the run.

This sort of thing goes to show just how powerless we humans with our technology are when faced with the forces of nature.

It is a long time since we had a power cut but I keep a 160AH leisure battery so I can take advantage of RF quiet times. Even at 100w I can get a long time our of that and if all fails a generator.

I knew someone who lost a static caravan in the floods near Warwick a few years ago. He had only used once before it was washed away. After learning it had been lost he turned to his wife and said "See, I told you we should have bought a boat!".

I hope things are soon back to normal.

Regards Steve GW7AAV

Ed N4EMG said...

Hi Julian,

I've been traveling for work and, as usual, completely out of touch with what's happening outside of my little circle. After seeing the pictures and reading the accounts, I would like to offer that I'm relieved to find that you and your wife are safe, but my heart goes out to all of those unfortunate folks directly (and indirectly) affected by a tragedy such as this. Having myself been involved in two significant floods, the cost of cleanup can often not be measured until years down the road. But important possessions and so-called valuables mean little next to the cost of human life.

Be safe and keep us posted.
73, Ed N4EMG

Unknown said...

Found your blog after googling the flood. How tragic. My family lived at Little Hames (Goat Rd area) from 1968-1971 when my father worked at Ectona in Workington. Back then Pauline & Ronnie Milbourne (sp?) lived at Hames Hall. Cockermouth is such a lovely little town. Will you please post info about relief charities so we can send aid? I am going to search for same but if you know of something, do post it. All are in our prayers.

marty said...

heating engineer/plumber willing to work all hours in cumbria,all gas safe reg ... ect

stephanie said...

Please if anyone knows the whereabouts of Michael and Muriel Conway , from Rubby Banks , Cockermouth .they were evacuated to the school , with or without their blue merle rough collie(Lassie)(the rspca WON'T TELL ME)Rescue centres ,police, council, school , wool mill all helpful but they have slipped the net and are not on a list.Thinking of you all in this tragedy.Stephanie. 01989767056

alan s said...

Think the Conways are in a flat above Chattanooga's fast food place on Station Street

Rosalind said...

The Conways and Cloud have moved from the flat and are now in a house along towards Aldis. Possibly Derwent Street.
They were out and about yesterday. :o)

Rosalind said...

Correction------I believe the Conways are still above Chattaooga's but are moving to Derwent Street on Friday.