Floods special: Night the tide refused to stop...

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A disaster scene that would not have looked out of place in a Hollywood film.

That was just one of the many reactions when on December 5 last year a tidal surge saw flood defences in the borough completely overwhelmed.

Water poured into businesses in Scarborough’s Foreshore Road and Sandside, a Yorkshire Water construction site was destroyed and Whitby was completely engulfed and plunged into darkness.

Emergency services were forced to evacuate people living in at-risk areas and the effects of that fateful 24 hours can still be felt today.

The bill for the night of destruction, when water levels reached 1.5 metres above high tide, ran to more than 
£1 million.

But on the night itself there was little indication of what was to come.

The Environment Agency issued warnings of flooding along the east coast, prompting the owner of the Harbourside Gift Shop in Sandside, Gaeleen Bibby, to head down to her shop just after 3pm.

“We had heard the warnings and went for a look and the sea was just flat and calm,” she said.

“I didn’t think anything of it and then, at 4pm, the water started coming into the road and with high tide not until about 5.30pm it was then that I realised that we were in trouble.

“The council were fantastic and a flatbed truck full of sandbags was brought down.

“I remember we were joking with the lads [from the council] as we were building up the sandbags that they should pop by for a coffee the next morning as we didn’t think it would get that bad.”
But the waters kept rising, going over the waist-high barricade and into the shop.

“The store has been open since 1962 and this is the first time that water has got in,” added Mrs Bibby.

“Even in the storms of the 80s it only got up to the shop front.

“This time it was a foot high, which was enough to short out the mains electric and start a fire in the store.

“It was March before we were able to open again and July until the final insurance payment came through. I never thought we wouldn’t open but it was very testing.

“No-one had seen anything like that night before.”

One of the most iconic images to come out of that night was the destroyed Yorkshire Water construction site in North Bay.

The water has devastated the area but, despite appearances, workers had managed to clear the area before the water reached its peak.

Businesses in Foreshore Road also escaped the worst, with only some minor flood damage thanks to the hastily arranged sandbags.

Up the coast in Whitby it was a different story as the Esk burst its banks, knocking out electricity to the town and making conditions extremely difficult for those managing the rescue attempts.

The Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team was sent to Whitby to help in the relief efforts and to provide support in case an evacuation was required.

What the team went through on that night has shaped its training over the last 12 months.

Team member Ian Hugill said: “What we have tried to incorporate is just how different it is to work in a flood in a built-up area like a town.

“In a river flood you can normally stand up to waist deep in water but in a street we have found that anything above ankle height will take your legs from under you as the underfoot conditions are so smooth.
 “Also, when using a craft or vehicle you have to be aware of furniture and other items, you can not be sure if there is a post or a bench beneath you.

“Add in contamination from sewers and the risk of electrocution and it is a very different environment to work in.

“We have looked at past floods in Malton and Pickering to try and prepare for any that may happen again in the future.”