8 December 2015

Run round various offices at work in the morning and pick up cables, dehumidifiers, newspapers and cloth from some marvellous people happy to loan them; and a big thank you to a certain someone for the box of chocolates for my parents.  My friend Simon turns up to help and by the time I arrive there is obvious progress from the day before. 

Today we moved the living room to this state... which looks worse but is progress.

More boxes of books. Mum and Dad take the stuff they’ll need immediately; I take the stuff for Christmas.  Some of the less damageable stuff that won’t be needed for 6 months goes upstairs, but we are worried about damp there, and with only two small rooms it’s getting a bit tight for space.  We seek reassurance about the buildings insurance policy, held by the owner of the leasehold on the properties in the courtyard and are happy to find this seems to be under control.  They have eight flood claims going through and a loss adjustor working his way round each one.  Our turn soon hopefully.  We ask for drinking water to be delivered.

Another lunch in the soup kitchen.  Mum moves her paintings to new dry tissue paper.  

Discover cake and eat it.  Mum rejects food from the fridge and freezer; I ignore the Public Health England instructions and take some to eat.  Just before Christmas we’re not the only people with a house full of food ready to lose.

The Environment Agency calls to look at Stock Beck.  We contact United Utilities who confirm that the tap water is not drinkable.  We haven’t found anyone to look at drains and the paving over the one in the courtyard looks ever less solid.  We turn back over the plant pots in the garden and sweep the yard, cleaner out than in now.  Take down the curtains and dump them in dry bags upstairs, a bit damp but can be washed. 

Eventually hear from the contents insurer.  Problems getting them to talk to someone other than Dad (who has no mobile).  They forward £1,000 to my account immediately, which will be helpful.  Some debate about additional living expenses.  £5,000 on contents policy but Insurer A thinks the buildings policy with Insurer B will cover it.  A bigger limit, but who knows how the two companies will look at these things and if it might slip through the gaps. 

My parents move to stay with a different set of friends.

By the end of play we have 11 dehumidifiers… but the house still stinks anyway.

A walk round the block where my parents live shows others are no better off than us.

The shops haven’t done well.  Antiques, furniture, a corner shop, two restaurants and a bizarre looking window with some stuffed ducks in one side and a brolly in the other. The ducks aren’t cleared out to the heaps on the pavement but I assume they are wet stuffed ducks now.  Perhaps it’s rude to dump stuffed birds on the street.

9 December

On the plus side, finally we hear from a loss adjustor!  The contents one, who contacts us to say that they will send people to clear out the building, perhaps before he gets there, and we should make a list of what they take and they will do the same so there’s a cross check.

On the down side, the electricity goes down and when the people come to switch it back on they open the meter and water pours out, so they refuse to turn it back on again.  The house gets noticeable smellier in the day and 11 dehumidifiers sit there unused.  We start a dehumidifier competition for which collects the most water… first night is won by Mum.

No news at all from the buildings insurer or their loss adjustor. 

Drinking water is delivered to the courtyard!  4 days after the event, bottles and bottles of it.  More use to the people in the flats upstairs who can continue life as normal but like us can’t drink the tap water.

With no electricity, the soup kitchen lunch today is candlelit and excellent.  

We learn of a scheme put together called laundry buddy; 70 people have offered to get in touch with a flood victim and help with their laundry.  An excellent initiative and a big step forwards, but the long curtains from the house won’t wait and are too heavy not to be done professionally so these end up in my car and are heading for Johnsons tomorrow.  My Mum shows me pictures she took in the house during the flood; but these will come later down the blog when we’ve got them off the camera!

More stuff upstairs, more stuff to my car; some shuffling about upstairs now so we can fit everything in.  However much we move there is still another cupboard with more stuff in it.  Everyone else is doing the same as us.

We hear on the news that the government will give flood relief of up to £5,000 to houses impacted by flooding.  Wonder how we get it. 

The main problem now is waiting in the house for the loss adjustors to show up; and my Mum has an appointment in Lancaster on Friday which can’t be missed, so that’s a day off work for me to cover the house-sitting bit.  Everyone is getting worried about loss adjustors.  Will they be reasonable, can we throw things away or do we need proof of flooding, should we fix things or let them sit and rot till we have adjustor approval?  Lots of tension over what the loss adjustors will bring.

By mid-afternoon we’re getting to the end of the clearing up now; downstairs is in a state that it can be gutted.  Today’s progress picture is darker.

So with the house under control, there’s time to do some field work.  We are suspicious because although this area can flood from the Kent, the houses that flooded on the Estate behind us can’t, and there are rumours of a failed reservoir behind the Estate.  The record from the flood gauge seems to fit with this.

Stock Beck runs partly open and partly through culverts, into the top end of Sandylands to a retention reservoir; then a lot more culverts under the area that flooded.  It’s Stock Beck that has threatened flooding in the past and in 2011 my Mum wrote to the district council to object to a proposed housing development which included plans to divert water from the nearby River Mint into Stock Beck at times of high flood.  She pointed out that Stock Beck already caused flooding in the area even without the proposed excess water, for example in 2009, where houses in the adjacent Ann Street were flooded by Stock Beck.  Needless to say the development went ahead. 

What I find along Stock Beck is the following. 

At the top end, the water came round the sides and has scoured out the ground behind the structure.

It goes into another culvert which looks big at the top end (below)

But not so big where it exits into the reservoir (below)

This is the reservoir (below).

And its exit, the Environment Agency are cleaning out the gravel deposited in the system by the event (below).

But in the event, even this wasn’t big enough, and much of the water came over the top to flood Sandylands.  The gravel area in the picture below is the area over which water escaped (the big culvert and holding area are to the right).  The digger is smoothing out the erosion in the dam cause by the flooding, but only smoothing out - it’s just unconsolidated earth he’s moving around.  On the estate to the left the drains are full to the top with gravel that’s come off the top of the dam.  It won’t take as much rain as last time to flood Stock Beck now, and the forecast ahead is still very wet.

The result in Kendal (below).

Back home my house is full of washing, drying, boxes and excess food that my parents won’t eat but I think is fine.  And the Christmas presents.  With all the wet stuff we’ve rescued, it’s starting to smell a bit here as well, but I’m hoping that will go away when I get on top of the washing.  Every radiator is occupied by something and I am drying out an old wine box and brush that my Mum was fond of, and all the photos we have of my Dad’s family. 

10 December

I go to work.  We manage to make an appointment with both sets of loss adjustors.  Electricity returns along with the required certificate, so we can use the upper sockets again.  Still no idea what will happen lower down, I assume the house will get rewired.  I go home from work but struggle because the road is flooded at Coniston and I have to go the long way round by Gisburn.  Still raining and with a weekend away I try to prepare my own home for possible flooding as well.

11 December

Today is loss adjustor day.  My parents have to visit Lancaster so I am on duty.  We get 2 loss adjustors at once.  They are nice and say helpful things.  We can get accommodation and they will pay for it, we don’t have to wait for them to provide it.  Chemdry will arrive tomorrow and decide what can be salvaged.  Various other people will visit and survey and assess and work out how to repair.  Neither seems to think their visit is entirely useful: one says, well it’s a bit obvious here.  Foot and a half of water?  Yes.  Job done. 

The living room.

The stairs: we slashed the carpet so the damp couldn’t creep upwards.

It’s only after the adjustors have gone that I get chatting to the guys next door, who arrived today to tidy up.  They tell me they had 2m of water at the back of their house, which adjoins ours, from the beck.  Ah.  I walk to the adjacent street and into one of the yards.  Sure enough there is a water mark 2m up their house.  The yard continues up to our building which has a confused back wall by the pub and the alley.  It would have been 2m there as well, which explains why we had water on top of the kitchen surfaces.  At the other side of the yard Stock Beck runs in and out through a couple of very small openings – it’s obvious how 2m of water could build up here.  I realise the beck must split and pass under all 3 streets that make up the triangle where my parents live – I only knew of 2 of the streams before.  This part of the beck goes over a small bump and is badly silted with gravel.  On the far side of the beck from the yard there is a high dry stone wall which has loose rocks and is bulging at the bottom; it looks like a good kick would bring the whole lot down.  A good kick or a high water level again… and if the wall fell the whole beck would block and flood these streets again.  Emergency call to the Environment Agency.

Stock Beck with a bulging wall and rather small channel.  The upstream gauge in the beck showed a water level about 5 times higher than normal during the event… imagine 5 times as much water trying to get through here.  Result 2m of water piled up against the back of our house and our neighbour’s house.

The streets around us were cleared by the council 2 days ago but are full all over again.

There is talk of more rain and I don’t trust Stock Beck so I move all our borrowed dehumidifiers up onto tables and fridges.  The best dehumidifier competition today is won by Nishit.  Open windows to start shifting the smell.  The soup kitchen surpasses itself again and a TV crew turn up to take photos.  I will miss chicken soup and cake and the community feel next week.  Today is loss adjustor day in more than just our house and everyone is talking about their experiences.  All positive I am happy to say and everyone is relieved that they have been met by someone who has been pleasant and helpful.  The tension of 2 days ago dissipates and there is a sense of relief all round.  Walking around the street I meet people from Aviva, AXA, Churchill, Crawfords, Direct Line, LV.

Structural damage caused by the flood (below).

Time for more fieldwork in the afternoon.  I visit the reservoir at the top of Stock Beck to see what happened there.  There’s no sign of major problems although the state of the wet side of the retaining wall isn’t exactly convincing.

And there is some impressive scour in the road just below.

So at the end of one week we have moved the front room from this (left) to this (right).

Links: The Westmorland Gazette

With thanks to:

Judith Marshall, Ian Sedgwick, Jake Bailey, Rebecca Alexandre, Mark Lawless, Colin Riggs, Kathryn Taylor, Richard Annable, Jilly Hargrave, Simon McKone, Justin Murphy, Alan and Ann Winstanley, Peter Freeman, Richard & Christine Moseley, Jo & Martin Tomlinson, Catharine S; the guys who came and cleaned the courtyard out without ever charging us; everyone at St George’s church; everyone who contributed food; everyone who signed up to the laundry buddy scheme in Kendal; all the other people who helped whose names I have forgotten, and all those who helped but whose names I never knew.