‘Sorry I’ve got to go: My car’s about to float off’

Head Groundsman Ian Ward wades through floodwater on the track following torrential rain at Wetherby Racecourse.
Head Groundsman Ian Ward wades through floodwater on the track following torrential rain at Wetherby Racecourse.
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RESIDENTS, businesses and emergency services across Yorkshire have battled against flooding amid warnings the worst is yet to come.

Parts of North Yorkshire were the hardest hit in the region yesterday and the county faced even heavier rainfall last night, prompting fears that water levels will rise further today.

North Yorkshire firefighters pumped out homes and rescued motorists as flooding caused major disruption to the transport network – only a few weeks after storms brought devastating floods to the county.

In Northallerton flood victim Bianca Smithson was on the phone to a beauty salon customer yesterday morning when she told the astonished client: “I’ve got to go – my car’s about to float down the street.”

The 30-year-old businesswoman dashed out to rescue her 
vehicle from outside the Visage salon in the town where fire crews were already battling to prevent the Friarage Hospital being swamped.

When she had walked into the salon she runs with her mother-in-law yesterday morning it looked as if it would escape the deluge.

“I was just taking a call from a client when I looked out the window again and saw water was already up to the front step,” she said.

“I said I have got to go and move my car away because it is starting to float down the street. I have to go and get some sandbags too.”

She began sand-bagging her property and managed to secure the main entrance of the listed building – only to find water had come in through a side door, swamping the business.

“We were shocked how quickly it happened,” she added. “There were big floods all over the place but the main one was at the hospital because the beck runs underneath it. Roads are flooded and people are having to sandbag their houses. It is such a shame because we only reopened after redecorating last week. We will just have to mop up and hope the water does not come back.”

The flooding in September caused a section of the A1 in North Yorkshire to be submerged for three days at a cost to the UK economy of more than £250m. Yesterday the A1 was again affected with long delays reported and one lane closed northbound for a stretch of the route near Catterick.

Delays were also reported on the A19 between North Yorkshire and the North East, and the southbound carriageway of the A19 was closed on the outskirts of Northallerton, between the A172 slip road from Stokesley towards the A684 Osmotherley turn-off.

The A684 between Brompton And Ellerbeck, near Northallerton, was also closed owing to flooding.

Chief Supt Sue Day, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “At present, we do not believe the flood situation is anywhere near as bad as what we experienced in September. However, we have the necessary preparations and contingencies in place should the conditions deteriorate.”

Train passengers using East Coast routes also faced major flooding disruption in the Doncaster area, which had a knock-on effect in the Selby and York areas.

In the flood-prone city of York, the River Ouse burst its banks, engulfing riverside buildings in the city centre.

The Kings Arms public house, which famously displays a wall chart in the bar to show how submerged it has been by previous floods, was under around a metre of water yesterday morning.

Water was being pumped out via a pipe through the letter box, despite a flood defence shutter covering the front door.

In September, York was the worst hit part of the region, and 50 of the city’s properties were flooded with a further 30 premises affected by surface water and over-spilling sewers.

The River Ouse in York peaked at about 16.5ft above normal summer levels – the second highest level since records began and only beaten by the flooding disaster in 2000.

Yesterday a spokeswoman for York Council said the river was 
expected to reach levels of 13.1ft (4m) above the average summer level by the early hours of this morning.

But she said the Ouse reached 17.7ft (5.4m) above the average in the floods of 2000 and said the city remained open for business.

Wetherby Racecourse announced yesterday it had postponed a meeting due to be held tomorrow after the rain left the track flooded.

Elsewhere Floods Minister Richard Benyon said he was frustrated by a flood defence failing in the village of Kempsey, Worcestershire, where he said residents must now feel “really let down”.

The new £1.5m project, designed to protect the village from the River Severn, broke down following an electrical problem which has now been fixed.

Three people have been killed across the country since the latest period of bad weather started last week.

Over the weekend a 21-year-old woman was killed and two people were seriously injured in Western Way, Exeter, when they were crushed by a tree as wild winds whipped southern England.

It followed the death of a man on Thursday, who was killed when his car became wedged beneath a bridge near a ford in Rectory Fields, Chew Stoke, Somerset.

A 50-year-old man also died after falling into a canal in Watford on Saturday.

Kevin Wilkinson was walking with friends along a towpath at around 4am near Wiggenhall Road.