Weeks on from floods - how one community is coping

St Michaels during the floods in December
St Michaels during the floods in December
  • Community still struggling two months after Storm Desmond
  • Many families still having to stay in hotels
  • £120,000 to get community hall back up and running
  • Wyre Council and Environment Agency help people defend and refurbish their homes
  • Praise for ‘extraordinary community spirit’

Sandbags and skips line the streets of St Michaels on Wyre – the flood water may have gone but the destruction remains.

The village, which was devastated by the December storms, stills bears the scar of the disaster with many locals still months away from being back in their homes.

St Michaels on Wyre CE Primary School is under water after Storm Desmond caused flooding in the area

St Michaels on Wyre CE Primary School is under water after Storm Desmond caused flooding in the area

Walking down Blackpool Road, one of the worst affected areas, the street has a vacant feel because of so many empty houses – despite being more than two months after Storm Desmond.

Families’ worldly possessions are being piled into skips as their houses are gutted out by insurance-hired tradesmen while they stay in hotels across the borough.

Also on the road is the village hall, and chairman Lawrence Turner explains how he has several options to consider when it comes to restoring the watter-logged building.

“We’d just finished a £46,000 appeal to fix the roof after someone stole our slate,” Lawrence said. “Now we’re looking at spending £120,000 to get the hall back up and running again. We’re lucky because it’s covered by insurance but we do have a few ways we could go.”

After four hours driving I came in to find parts of the floor floating.

Lawrence Turner

The hall is filled with fans and dehumidifiers, completely carpetless and has marks up the walls showing how high the water rose.

Lawrence said: “It’s incredible that the water came across three and a half square miles before reaching here.

“It all comes from the Brock river and was still a foot high around the building.

“I was in London at the time of the floods and got an urgent call to get back. After four hours driving I came in to find parts of the floor floating. The wonderful floor was ruined and the kitchen, which had only recently been donated and fitted, will now need to be completely replaced.

Martha and Abbie Cornthwaite rescue their nativity costumes from St Michaels on Wyre CE Primary School after Storm Desmond caused flooding in the area

Martha and Abbie Cornthwaite rescue their nativity costumes from St Michaels on Wyre CE Primary School after Storm Desmond caused flooding in the area

“My daughters had their 18th and 21st birthdays here so I have very fond memories of the place.

“We’ve basically been told it is unsustainable because of course it will flood again.”

Lawrence lives just a few houses down from the hall and nearly had his own flooding nightmare to deal with. The 68-year-old came home to find his garden under water.

“It’s my pride and joy so it has been ruined but we were very fortunate that it didn’t quite get into the house.

St Michaels on Wyre CE Primary School is under water after Storm Desmond caused flooding in the area

St Michaels on Wyre CE Primary School is under water after Storm Desmond caused flooding in the area

“My wife’s car was just starting to go under but we managed to get it out of the water just in time.”

But some weren’t so lucky. Some homes have insurance, but don’t have the finances to pay the hefty excess fees. Some rising as high as £10,000.

Others like Sam Collinson, 36, of Blackpool Road, are forced to fend for themselves with insurance too expensive to even consider.

“The house was under water but we didn’t have insurance so we just had to get our belongings out the way,” said Sam, who lives with his wife Antonia.

“We’re just having to live amongst the damage because there’s no other choice.

“Our fuel bills have gone up from having the heating on to dry the house, we’ll have to re-plaster, there’s damp, mould and the floors need re-doing. The road outside has also been ruined and we’re still waiting on someone to come and fix it.

“We’ve even had to trade our car in for a four by four just to make it easier to get in and out from our house.

“But we were still one of the lucky ones. We’re still living in our home and haven’t had our lives turned upside down so we have to be thankful for.”

The relief effort has come from many angles with Wyre Council and the Environment Agency helping people defend as well as refurbish their homes after the disaster.

Helping hands have been extended across the county but none more so than the village’s own pub The Grapes.

The business offered refuge to those forced out of their homes as well as hot food and drinks. It has also given the victims somewhere to go for advice and information with many post-flood events held in the Garstang Road pub.

Owner Gary Wright, 45, said: “We weren’t affected by the floods ourselves although business dipped due to the roads being closed.

“With being in the middle of the village it just seemed the natural thing to offer it up for people to come here.

“No one needed to stay overnight here but we did have a motor home use the carpark while the caravan park cleared the water. It’s been a real struggle for lots of people but there’s been a great community spirit throughout.”

Others have been quick to help too with the local primary school now being homed at Myerscough College.

St Michaels on Wyre Primary School’s 127 pupils will now be taught in three purpose-built Portkacabins by the 21 staff at the Bilsborrow College. And headteacher Cathy Brough says the school has been warmly welcomed.

She said: “Everyone at Myerscough has been amazing and we’re settling in well, we’ve even got our own playground!

“The school building is progressing well. We’re drying it out at the moment before contractors come in to do the work that’s needed to get it back open.

“We’re hoping to be back in by the end of April but that all depends on how much work needs doing and how long the work takes.”

And Mrs Brough has also praised the people of the village and its “extraordinary” community spirit.

“At the fundraiser at the Wyrebank we had 250 people there which was brilliant,” Mrs Brough said.

“Not just the money which was raised but just people of the village getting together. The support we have received has been unbelievable and to see everyone pulling together has been brilliant.”