This coming Sunday (October 31st) sees the start of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. Hosted by the UK we can expect to hear fine speeches promising to do not much and delivering even less. As Friends of the Earth point out, whilst the UK Government claims to be a leader in climate change, they are at the same time involved in at least 4 cases which will damage the environment.
Although in theory people want to do something about climate change, with surveys showing a majority supporting a net zero strategy, this is different from wanting to do anything in the here and now. Although entirely unscientific, a straw poll carried out for Reuters showed that most people when asked want change, they simply don’t want to change themselves.
Last week most people will have been aware of heavy rain across the UK, but would not have spent too much time thinking about it. However, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), convened by the UN, has highlighted a relationship between climate change and flooding. Heavy rain is not just a seasonal hazard, it is a feature of a changing environment. For most of us, most of the time, floods are something that happens to somebody else, often in faraway places. Occasionally, we find ourselves caught up in situations we may not have anticipated. And occasionally that means we have to confront the effects of climate change.
Which brings us to this, written in real time:
I am not looking for sympathy here I just want to share our journey so that people can have an understanding of what happens and the processes when a natural disaster occurs and your life is taken out of your own control. I hope this article helps others through this difficult process.
Day 3 Wake up at 6 a.m. The house is cold. Have a cup of tea, walk the dogs, check my email; the disaster management guy has sent us a copy of his report: the floors of the living room & kitchen will have to be ripped up & kitchen taken out, refitted. Well that’s that then. Turn on the noisy industrial dehumidifier we have been left, feed the dogs, light the fire and have breakfast. What are we to do? The loss adjuster, this all powerful being, will not be here for another 10 days. It is a hopeless time, in limbo. Should we? Can we? We check in with the disaster management team; he says we can do nothing. I go and start cleaning the paths in the poly tunnel.
Day 1 Wake up early morning, there is a thunder storm. The rain is lashing down. The dogs are shaking in fear. It’s about 5 a.m. Underlying the thunder cracks is a roaring whooshing sound. It is dark. We get up. There is water sloshing over our patio and garden path. The rain drives on the road. Outside the front of the house is flooded. As dawn breaks the cars driving at speed throw waves at the house. At the back door a trickle of water flowing over the threshold becomes a torrent. A couple of old towels do nothing. In minutes the kitchen has a couple of inches of dirty water lying in it. We move the kettle up a step (We live in a split level bungalow). We can now start to see the level of the water outside as it gradually rises and invades our conservatory where our chest freezer lives and encroaches through into our living room. I go outside. All our neighbours are out. The flow of water across the road requires care to pass. The scene is horrendous. The culvert under the road has overflowed. A torrent of water is streaming off the neighbouring farm’s field across the road and through our garden. A neighbour’s garden is flooded. There are six inches of water in their house. Our garden wall has held back the water causing our flooding. The fire brigade arrive, but there is nowhere to pump the water.
The rain subsides. I walk the dogs. The water level gradually drains away, leaving black sludge over our floors. We walk round the house surveying the damage. Kirsty goes indoors and starts mopping, starting in the lounge. I wander round the garden picking up plant pots that have been displaced, pulling out debris from our wood shed that have floated around the garden and freeing the ladder that has been swept into the brook. A friend P arrives with some apples and pears from his garden. As soon as he sees our predicament, he mucks in and helps Kirsty mop the kitchen floor. We lay cardboard over the mopped floor as we try to stop treading mud indoors from the outside paths and patio. P nips home and returns a little later with more cardboard and a small dehumidifier. Despite having drunk numerous cups of tea, we realise we have not had breakfast. It’s 10.30 a.m.
Our garden is a mess. The poly tunnel floor is covered in silt. P goes out and carefully waters plants to wash it off the leaves. We pull the mats out of the conservatory. By a miracle the freezer still seems to be working. Kirsty and P mop the conservatory. I contact the insurers and check the sheds. The water in these has been over six inches high. Electric power tools have been flooded. Kirsty cooks lunch of egg & chips. P goes home. There is little else he can help with.
Kirsty and I are getting short with each other. We decide to take the dogs for a walk at nearby Pembrey Park. When we get back to the house, I forget to get Ellie our rescue greyhound out of the car. Kirsty locks the car. We go in and seconds later realise she is still in the car. Our heads are in the shed.
After we get home we talk to A our neighbour who was flooded, and he comes round and helps remove some boulders from our brook to ease the flow of water through. It’s a bit hopeless as the culvert couldn’t cope with the amount of water but it feels like something has been done.
Kirsty has not got her head round dinner when our friend P and his partner S ring to tell us they have made us a pot of cawl and are bringing it over.
Day 2 We wait for the disaster management team. What to do? Kirsty is unsure what next. I mess around hosing the patio off. It still looks as bad when I finish. 11 a.m., the disaster management men turn up. Kind, sympathetic and friendly, they bring an industrial dehumidifier and plug it in. They take up a section of floor for investigation and remove the ruined mats from the garden and drop off some boxes for us to empty our Welsh dresser and kitchen units. After a general look round and taking photos they leave to visit our neighbour. I mop out the front of one of the sheds where our garden tools are kept to avoid spreading more muck around. Kirsty has another go at the patio. After a proper look in the sheds the damage is devastating. Too much to take in. Kirsty is in tears. It is all overwhelming.
Well that is our story so far. It’s Friday and we are resigned to the fact that nothing will happen over the weekend so we are trying to face life as normally as possible. I’m off to fill the bird feeders.
On Sunday, as world leaders arrive in Glasgow, one couple’s disaster will not figure on their agenda. But the decisions they make, or avoid making, will determine how many more people will go through similar experiences. Of course, not all flooding is caused by climate change. It is one variable amongst many. But by refusing to take action now, we make the inevitability of more disasters, and worse disasters, inevitable.