motorists were caught unawares as the upper Calder Valley was sent reeling by a New Year’s Eve downpour.
While there was some initial concern in Todmorden as persistent rain was followed by a sudden cloudburst, the town escaped unscathed while in Hebden Bridge a speedy response from traders, police and council workers prevented a crisis in Market Street.
Sid Jones, of Muse Music and the Love Cafe, opposite the Co-op on Market Street, said there was no doubt it had been a lucky escape.
Police had made the right decision to stop traffic coming through and sending the water over the pavement, he said.
“The water just barrelled down Horsehold - thick, black, slimy water - and the drains were blocked near the Co-op.
“The police said they stopped traffic coming through until it had cleared. That’s just what we needed. It’s been a narrow escape and we are all relieved,” he said.
Sally Hayes was working in Valley Organics and watched with concern as the filthy water spewed into town from the surrounding hillsides.
She said: “It was touch and go. It was obviously raining very hard and had been for a couple of hours. I was keeping an eye on what was going on because I was a little bit worried – I couldn’t get out of the shop to check.
“This horrible brown water came from the direction of the Co-op and filled up the drain and then quickly the road was flooded. Whenever any cars came along, the wash came lapping up to our door.
“Very quickly – within about half an hour – there was suddenly a whole army of men in Market Street with brooms clearing out the drains. It’s a very effective system they’ve got in place now. It’s made a lot of difference.”
Valley Organics had been closed since the first 2012 flood on the night of June 22 and had operated from Hope Baptist Church until the shop re-opened in October. Ms Hayes had to ask customers to leave on Monday afternoon as the water was rising rapidly and then shut up shop and engaged the newly installed flood gate. “There’s been a lot of work done on the shop and when the water went down I opened up again,” she said.
A Calderdale Council spokesman said: “Calderdale Council swung into action immediately. A road sweeper was mobilised around Hebden Bridge and the upper valley during Monday afternoon and evening to make sure roads were kept clear of any debris. Gulley wagons were out across the borough to clear blocked gulleys and to allow surface water to drain away.
The council closely monitored the situation and river levels throughout the day. The river did not overflow.”