Following the heavy flooding caused as water spilled over the banks and flood defences along the River Ouse and River Foss in York and flooded homes and business premises on 27 December which forced the evacuation of residents and which I photographed here I went back to Huntingdon Road in the city early this morning as the waters from the River Foss subsided to document some of what was left behind.
As rapidly as the flood water came it drained away this morning as the nearby pumping station was now functioning properly after repairs yesterday and behind the water is now left a clean-up for those affected that is sure to take many months to complete. It was quite something to witness as the street slowly began to come back to life and the residents slowly returned to their homes and got on with the miserable business of sorting out the damage. Whilst hopefully avoiding the cliche if I can it was indeed a fine example of Yorkshire spirit.
Offers of help shouted by passing friends or neighbours to homeowners. The offer to put people up or bring them some food. A woman pouring out cups of tea for anyone who wanted one and using probably the biggest tea-pot in the city brought a bit of much needed morale. The daily milk delivery had been made and left, propped up on sand bags on many of the doorsteps for their owners to collect so at least they might start their own clean-up with a cup of tea.
People walked dogs and ran or cycled along the street something that only yesterday wouldn’t have been anywhere close to possible.
A man fed the swans in the now sedate looking River Foss.
But I also spoke to a business owner who was worried that their life-long business might have ended today with the retreating waters as the insurance cover may not provide adequate protection to replace all the damaged equipment. I spoke to home owners who were devastated with the prospects of many months ahead of them of drying out and cleaning up the mud and silt left by the retreating water. I also spoke to a couple leaning out of their bedroom window who told me that someone had come and used the cover of the flood chaos and broken into a property a couple of doors down from them and burgled it as it had been left empty over Christmas. What kind of low-life wanker would do that?
But the overriding thing I witnessed was the community within the street come together.
I also saw photographers, reporters and news crews acting in an extremely professional manner and delicately and respectfully approaching those affected to try and get interviews and pictures. Something that understandably probably wasn’t the highest thing on their list of priorities this morning when they returned to their homes but it’s something that is hugely important in order to tell the story of this tragic event here in York and everywhere else that has suffered from the recent extreme weather. So as a photographer, and if I may be bold enough to speak for the wider media, thank you for your patience at a difficult time and I wish you well.
And as the council street cleaners made their way up and down the streets hoovering up the mud and as some kind of normality returned on Huntingdon Road spare a thought for those that had played such an important part in protecting those residents of York – the Mountain Rescue Teams, the soldiers from 2 Lancs, the RAF boys who dropped the spare parts in yesterday by Chinook, the Police, Fire crews and RNLI, the Council and Environmental Agency staff and volunteers and anyone else involved because their work continues as they prepare for the next storm, named ‘Storm Frank‘, which is approaching over the next couple of days and which could bring further flooding in many parts and which could also result, for some at least, especially in Cumbria and Scotland, in a miserable start to the new year.
Lets hope not.
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Images copyright Ian Forsyth 2015
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