A second major cleanup operation is underway after severe floods and torrential rain battered Lancashire in one of the worst deluges the region has ever seen.
More than a month’s worth of rain fell across Lancashire on Boxing Day causing rivers to burst their banks, homes to be flooded and left without power, roads closed and whole communities cut off.
It comes as many rain-lashed communities are still dealing with the aftermath of Storm Desmond, which caused widespread flooding across Lancashire earlier in the month.
This time the Environment Agency issued seven rare ‘red’ weather warnings, indicating a threat to life, in Ribchester, Chorley, Longridge, and around the Ribble Valley as every river in Lancashire reached record highs.
Residents in Croston, Walton-le-Dale, Ribchester and eastern parts of the county, who had been opening their Christmas presents just hours before were told to evacuate their homes as water filled the streets on Boxing Day.
Evacuation centres were set up around the county to help families stranded by the chaos.
Mum-of-two Sophie Wilding, who lives on Victoria Road in Walton-le-Dale, said: “We were all told to leave by the police.
“The River Ribble breached about three fields back on one side of our house and our garden was flooded.”
People affected by the floods were urged to take shelter at evacuation centres at Longridge Civic Hall, Chorley Town Hall, Whalley Golf Club and Haslingden Leisure Centre, while residents in St Michaels sought refuge at the Grapes Pub in Garstang Road.
Rescue operations were put in place by emergency services and Environment Agency to help evacuate elderly and vulnerable residents.
Army personnel battled chest-deep floodwater to help save the lives of evacuees in Croston after hundreds of homes were left without power when the floods damaged an electricity sub-station.
Engineers from North West Electricity worked through the night to help restore power to 89 Croston homes affected by the floods – but 488 more were still without electricity yesterday.
Engineers have now warned that the extent of the flooding is so bad that some families will not have power restored to their homes until Monday.
The deluge is another blow to people living in St Michaels, who were badly hit by deep floods earlier this month when the River Wyre burst its banks during Storm Desmond.
This time residents were cut off as police were forced to close the A586 leading out of the village. The road has since re-opened.
Travel plans were also disrupted when a landslide covered the train tracks near Chorley Railway Station yesterday, affecting services to Blackpool and Manchester.
Tony Pounder from Lancashire County Council said: “Our highways teams are working hard to clear debris that’s contributing to localised flooding on the road network. We have had a number of enquiries about flooded roads and we’re dealing with them as quickly as we can.”
The relentless rains put an end to popular events across the county, including the annual Longridge Pram Race and Ribble Valley 10km run, as well as Blackpool and Blackburn’s home games and non-league fixture calendar.
The National League North Lancashire derby between Chorley and AFC Fylde was postponed, as was the AFC Blackpool v Squires Gate clash in the Vodkat League.
Games at Burscough, Clitheroe and Lancaster also fell foul to the deluge.
In total, 100mm of rain fell in 24 hours in Lancashire covering Christmas Day and Boxing Day – Preston normally gets 80mm in the whole of December.
Already 230mm have fallen this month and now forecasters are warning even more rain is forecast to hit the county later in the week.
John Hammond, Met Office advisor, said: “As far as Met Office alerts and warnings go, attention next focuses on another deep and vigorous Atlantic depression – and its associated rain and strong winds as these approach the UK around the middle of the week.
“Compared to Boxing Day’s heavy rain, a subtle shift in wind direction towards a more southerly, could mean that Cumbria may receive the higher rainfall totals.
“Alternately, Lancashire and Greater Manchester may be somewhat sheltered, so perhaps seeing the less high rainfall amounts.”