A night the flood victims would prefer to forget

It’s an anniversary many on the Humber won’t care to remember. As night fell on December 5 a tidal surge caused by low pressure, high winds and Spring tides combining, swept in towards the East Coast from the North Sea.

Dave Mouncey's house in South Ferriby was damaged in a tidal surge on the Humber

On the banks of the river there were dramatic scenes as people were plucked to safety, some within an inch of their lives and cars were carried away.

Around 1,100 properties were flooded and 7,000 hectares of agricultural land submerged.

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In South Ferriby, one of the worst affected villages, the water came in from the Humber with an eerie roar, swamping 130 homes.

A year on the skips have gone and it looks as if normality has returned.

A tea dance and disco is being held in the village hall this afternoon for those directly affected.

But scrape the surface and the emotional scars run deep.

The stress of being flooded has been such that some families who were living council houses have not come back and there are still high levels of anxiety as the monthly Spring tides come round.

For Dave Mouncey, 75, the memories of having to kick down his kitchen door to get upstairs from the rushing water, are raw.

The home, his family has lived in since the 1930s, is literally the wrong side of the road, being closest to the river.

Mr Mouncey has worked on the Humber all his life, as an eel fisherman and later for the Environment Agency, but nothing had quite prepared him for the trauma of what he was about to experience. “It came across the field like a mini tsunami, its noise was quite horrendous,” he recalled.

“I should have never tried to go back into the house to put the power off - it followed me in, shut the door behind me and I couldn’t get out. I could see my son out on the road in his chest waders up to his knees in water and I was wondering what would happen if the window goes in.”

He escaped by cracking a panel in a door to relieve the water pressure. The stress of seeing the downstairs of his home ruined - he didn’t have insurance - pushed him to the limit.

“For the first four weeks I was ready to bulldoze the house and go into the old people’s bungalows - it was only my next door neighbour who got hold of me and squared me up. Around 10 or 12 families haven’t come back because they are frightened to come back and a lot of people are struggling to get insurance.”

Mr Mouncey is planning to use a £5,000 grant to improve the flood resilience of his home. It will include a new back door and rendering with concrete up to window sill level.

But he won’t relax until the Environment Agency gets on with raising the flood banks that run just a few hundred yards from his house.

A programme including raising the banks and improving defences is costed at £5.9m - but won’t start until next year at the earliest and completion not till 2020. He thinks some of the work could be done far more cheaply creating saline lagoons and locally sourced clay. He said: “They are doing work down the south bank at Barton, Barrow, New Holland, but nothing here.

“Apart from one little repair the following day they have done nothing at all.”

Mr Mouncey will remain sceptical until work actually starts.

He said: “You couldn’t wish for a better set up at North Lincolnshire Council and the local MP Andrew Percy got stuck in. “But higher up...People are starting to get very edgy.”

On the anniversary he will be mulling over what happened and when the work will be done to prevent it happening again: “I think: ‘Will it happen in my lifetime?’ I very much doubt it at present.”