Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Monsoon - Part 2

On Friday I dropped in at the allotment to put cloches on some of my plants and seedlings, to prevent them being washed away under the heavy rain.  I really should have brought my wellies home with me, as it turned out!  I kept an eye on the river all day and while it was high, it was not                     unduly so.  Checked the Enviroment Agency website, not even a flood alert, so I was fairly relaxed.  Until I went outside just before 7pm and saw this.  This river is outside my house, on the other side of a high wall, and at this point the top of the water was a good bit higher than the bottom of my house.  Hmmm, I thought.
So then I went to the other side of the bridge and saw this.  S**t!  To explain, the bottom edge of  the pipe support is our gauge for how high the water is or is likely to get.  At or below the pipe support, ok, not to worry.  Above that, you really should worry.  I went back indoors and almost immediately the automated phone call came - flood warning.  Actually, this was the last time I actually saw that pipe for several hours as the water ultimately went well over it.
First thing, fit the floodgate to the front door, which is one of the lowest in the street.  Then on with the boots (should have brought the wellies home!), waterproof and collect the flood brush.  I only use this brush for two things - dealing with flood water or brushing soil off the paving stones in the very occasional dry spells we get.  By this time sandbags were being distributed, and this floodgate was reinforced with them later.
Then I saw this standing water and knew we were in trouble.  In the centre of this picture is a grid; all our surface water drains into the river, unless... you've guessed it... the river is in flood.  There are two of these grids near my house, and the water from the river comes up them, fast.  Happily, just to the right of this picture is my kitchen drain, which goes into the sewer.  The flood aversion technique, then, is to brush the water into the sewer drain as fast as you can to keep the level down.  Within 10 minutes of taking this picture, the pavement was invisible, drowned in the water.  So a group of us worked here and at the front of my house to move the water, while another, larger group managed to get the lid off the main sewer in the middle of the road to move the faster-rising water over there.
It took three hours of constant sweeping and bailing by 30 people, by 9.30pm I was convinced we had won the battle but we had to keep on just in case. By 10pm the river was clearly past its peak and receding, as were the pools of water in the village.  It goes down as rapidly as it comes up and by 10.45pm there was no water left.  Someone told me today that the water was rising by 2 feet every 5 minutes at its peak.  It was certainly a new record, judging by the graph on the Environment Agency website, the river peak was a full 50cm higher than the previous record.  But by 10.30 I was able to retreat inside, remove my wet boots and socks and put away the broom for the night.  After all that exercise, I certainly slept well!
Not everyone was so fortunate, a group of houses elsewhere in the village was flooded, just as they were 10 years ago.  A horrible experience.  But my floodgate is put away until the next time.

On the allotment, the wind tore the cloche protecting my tomato plants in two.  I've lost some courgettes, the beetroot is iffy and the snails have attacked some of my potato plants given the perfect munching conditions.  On the plus side, I have loads of marrows, which I transplanted today, so they should make up for the lack of courgettes.  The standing water which made an appearance on the allotment on Friday has gone, we just have sodden soil yet again.  Plus an overgrown slug and snail population and summer plants which must seriously think its autumn.

British summer weather strikes again...  Roll on winter, it can't be worse than this, can it?
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