Storm Ciara day 2: Whalley begins huge clean-up operation after floodwaters rip through homes and businesses

Four years ago dozens of residents in Whalley and Billington lost everything when their homes were completely submerged in flood waters. Yesterday, they began to relive the same "nightmare and devastation" when their homes were engulfed in the overflowing waters after the River Calder burst its banks.
Deep floodwaters in Whalley yesterdayDeep floodwaters in Whalley yesterday
Deep floodwaters in Whalley yesterday

Today, residents are waking up to the disruption caused and coming to terms with the aftermath of Storm Ciara - dubbed the "biggest storm this century".

They had to abandon their homes and were rescued by boat yesterday when flood waters poured through the streets after torrential downpours wreaked havoc across towns and villages.

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Whalley businesswoman and member of Whalley and Billington Flood Action Group, Kellie Hughes, says she witnessed scenes reminiscent of Boxing Day 2015. She said: "It is just like what happened four years ago. Everyone is in turmoil and there is widespread devastation. So many people were evacuated from their homes and had to stay with friends, relatives or find accommodation in local hotels because their homes were under water and there was no electricity. Power was gradually restored, but it's absolutely horrendous how residents and businesses in King Street, Whalley and Longworth Road, Billington, had to witnesses a devastating trail of destruction. We are today assessing the situation as the clean up begins."

As the picturesque village was consumed by water, two rescue centres - Whalley Village Hall and Billington Brass Band Club - were set up to help the victims and officials from Ribble Valley Borough Council were on standby to offer support.

A Ribble Valley Borough Council spokesman said: "Our officers have been on the ground throughout the weekend offering support to the primary agencies and assistance where possible to homes affected by flooding. We have opened a drop-in centre at Whalley Village Hall today offering housing advice to anyone displaced from their home by loss of power.”

Meanwhile, Whalley and Billington councillors Ged Mirfin and Mark Hindle witnessed first hand the inexorable rise in the level of the River Calder as it surged towards properties overcoming flood doors and hydro-sacks before ingressing into a number of properties with frightening speed in less than an hour.

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Coun. Mirfin said: "The community galvanised itself to cope with a flood which was a re-run of that which occurred on Boxing Day 2015. Virtually the exact same areas of Whalley, Billington, Painter Wood and Chew Mill Lane, as well as this time Elker Mews fell victim to the sheer savagery of the weather. The speed of the rise in the River Calder combined with the inability of the culvert which runs below King Street in Whalley from 10am onwards surprised everybody and overwhelmed the best laid plans of those who had spent years preparing detailed responses to worst case scenarios and providing access to a wide range of flood prevention measures including hydro-sacks to stop the ingress of water into the entrances and exits of properties.Within the space of half an hour large-scale flooding had occurred in Calder Vale and King Street in Whalley and Longworth Road in Billington where the entire 29 properties had to be evacuated leaving little time for vehicles to be moved off the street and furniture upstairs. Residents were left bewildered and angry as the River Calder reached a height of four metres and 38 centimetres."

Coun Hindle went onto praise the rallying of the community. He said: "I have been so impressed by the community spirit. Thank you for all the people who have gone over and above to help people."

Coun Mirfin added: "I would like to single out and praise the work of the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and Lancashire Constabulary who evacuated a number of elderly and infirm residents rescuing some in their launch boat. A number of families who were flooded were put up free of charge in local hotels the Swan in Whalley and Mitton Fold and Foxfields in Billington, whilst long-term solutions to their housing needs are sought following a fact-finding exercise carried out by a volunteer evacuation team from Lancashire County Council in conjunction with their colleagues from Ribble Valley Borough Council located throughout the day at the Village Hall in Whalley and the Brassband Club in Billington which acted as Emergency Rescue Centres."