The village of Walsden, near Todmorden, was cleaning up yesterday after a torrent of water tore up roads and poured into homes following a cloudburst on Monday evening in which around 19mm of rain fell in around 15 minutes.
Up to 90 homes were flooded, 15 of which were severely affected, with thousands of pounds of damage caused to walls, roads, culverts and bridges.
Walsden resident Roger Stansfield said: “It started raining really heavily and within 15 minutes this road was completely flooded to the depth of my wellington boots. There’s nothing you can do.”
Flood warden Keith Crabtree said an “unprecedented” amount of rain caused “sheer devastation”.
He added: “Every road in and out of Todmorden was flooded. There’s still a lot of water coming off the hillside.
“It happened so quickly. The floods 12 months ago took three days to build up.
“This one, we just got three quarters of an hour of cloudburst and there’s just nothing you can do about that.”
Railway lines were submerged and Walsden station had to be closed as crews repaired tracks.
One resident was swept around 50ft by the raging torrent. He was carried downhill and ended up on the railway tracks at end of his street.
Clearing out his flood-damaged home yesterday, the man said he was too shaken to talk about the incident.
A neighbour said: “The water was bubbling up and he was trying to redirect it.
“He went through the gate, was taken down the road and under the gate, on to the railway lines.
“He thought he was a goner. It’s a fair distance. And with the torrent that was coming through, he’s lucky to be alive today. Very, very lucky.”
Questions are now being asked of flood experts and whether future flooding can be prevented.
Walsden councillor Andrew Hartley called for action to be taken in order to “slow down” flood water as it came off the hills. He called on the authorities to look into re-using disused reservoirs as a way of holding flood water during downpours.
“I am sure there is a way, maybe of not preventing it (flooding) but of it not happening on such a scale.”
Coun Hartley said he doubted if flash flooding could be prevented entirely: “I don’t think it can be stopped but it can be made better, as there are reservoirs which are bone dry and could hold millions of litres of water.”
He cited the disused Ramsden Clough as one possible reservoir which could be re-used.
However, last night a spokesman for owner United Utilities ruled this out, saying “ground conditions” meant it was no longer suitable for holding water.
Fed-up residents pointed out that millions of pounds are being spent on flood schemes in the upper Calder Valley.
One man said: “We have had two years of them trying to alleviate floods in Todmorden and it’s not getting any better.”
A spokesman for the Environment Agency provided a list of “identified works” for Todmorden – although not all have been completed.
The list includes ten projects, including debris removal from culverts, a £37,500 scheme to realign a culvert at Warland Bridge, Walsden, and gravel removal at Walsden Water.
The spokesman said Monday evening’s flood involved a minor watercourse above Walsden which spilled over and exacerbated surface water flooding which had already begun.
A spokeswoman for Calderdale Council said “any amount of drainage” would not have been able to cope with the volume of rainfall which hit the area.
Meanwhile, residents who were hardest hit are counting the cost.
Richard Mountain, of Kershaw Road, said the flood had damaged his business as well as his home, furniture and utilities such as electricity and water supply.
More needed to be done by the authorities to prevent similar incidents in the future, he said. “This shouldn’t be happening,” he added.