Last week, as those in the UK and Ireland will know, storm Desmond hit the British Isles. Eighty-mile-an-hour winds and record rainfall caused rivers in the North West to burst their banks, flooding my town.
Multi-million-pound flood defences designed to cope with a “one in a hundred years” storm failed to stop the rising water and the army had to be called in with rescue boats to evacuate homes and businesses. Sixty-thousand homes, including my own, went without power for days when the substation flooded. Although intermittent power has now been restored, residents are warned to be as sparing as possible as emergency generators struggle to cope with demand. The road bridges from my neighbourhood on the north bank of the river to the city centre on the south-side had to be closed, cutting off access to the hospital and making it difficult for carers to reach vulnerable clients.
Dozens of schools and workplaces closed, bereft children having to make their own entertainment as phone transmitters failed and computer batteries died. Scores of people queued in the streets for the few remaining payphones, previously assumed to be obsolete. Bemused students turned to older folk for instruction, having never set foot in a phone box before much less learned to use one.
One friend’s night out on the town turned into a sleepless night on a pub’s stone floor huddled next to strangers for warmth. Another friend’s day trip to Scotland became several nights in a budget hotel thanks to the closure of the North West Mainline. Throughout the city neighbours knocked on pensioners doors to check they were coping, and the few in outlying areas that still had power offered warm food, hot showers and recharging of electronics to those who could get there.
During all this meanwhile, I was thankfully tucked up in my parent’s spare room two hundred miles away, guilty watching events unfold on the news and worrying for the safely of friends and family.
I cannot begin to express my relief for mum’s fortuitous decision to come back to the UK from her home overseas slightly early this year, saving me from a solitary week with no heat, light or communications (and possibly no carers). I’m also grateful to the friend who, worried for my safety, attempted to phone when the power first came back on line and receiving no reply, drove across the river once the bridges had reopened in order to check on me. [I’m sorry if I perturbed you.]
At the current time I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be going back to. My house is on a hill so will have escaped the water and I’m sure my friend would have mentioned if there were any sign of looting. So long as the boiler relit when the power came back on line the only problem I anticipate is having to throw out food from my newly restocked freezer if it spoiled in the power cuts. Compared to what others have lost though that’s a mere inconvenience.
All in all I’m extremely thankful that although this last week must have been miserable for various friends and neighbours, they all seem to have remained safe and some even cheerful. I pray it remains that way as the wind, and rain continue.
To borrow a favourite valediction from a friend in the Home Counties, to all my family and friends in the north, “take care up there”.