Would ‘rain guages’ be key to warning of floods?

Full to the brim - the River Calder lapping the bridge at Halifax Road near the junction with Hallroyd Road, Todmorden
Full to the brim - the River Calder lapping the bridge at Halifax Road near the junction with Hallroyd Road, Todmorden

A NEW warning system could be set up in the Calder Valley to give a much earlier indication of possible flooding.

Such a system would be one of the first of its type in this country.

The idea has been prompted by criticism in the wake of last Friday’s deluge which affected 900 homes and business in the Upper Calder Valley, and caused damage thought to run into tens of millions of pounds.

At the moment, sirens are only sounded by the Environment Agency when rivers reach a certain level.

“We need to investigate the possibility of a weather-based warning system,” said Yorkshire area manager Craig McGarvey.

“This could help to give advance warning of flooding from surface water and other sources,” he said.

A pilot scheme on these lines has recently been set up in Cornwall.

The Environment Agency issued a general flood alert in the Upper Calder Valley at 10.31am on Friday.

But it wasn’t until 7.55pm that the sirens went off, by which time it was too late to prevent properties in Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden being inundated.

At one point the River Calder rose by two feet in fifteen minutes as the rain drained off sodden hillsides into rivers, streams and swept along roadways.

The River Calder in Hebden Bridge recorded its highest ever level at 10ft - nearly a foot deeper than in the floods of June 2000.

But the agency said “there should not be any problems with flooding this weekend”.

It has been helping Calderdale Council with the clean-up operation which is expected to last for weeks.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon visited Hebden Bridge and told businesses: “It is very difficult to create an effective flood defence system that can cope with a months rain in a few hours.”

Apo Ozdanal, the manager of Moyles restaurant and bar, in Hebden Bridge, said it could be six months before they will be ready to re-open. “The floods have ruined everything in the cellar. We had all our stock and equipment down there. Beer barrels were floating in the water. It will be a minimum of three months before we re-open but it could be as long as six.

“I asked the Minister to tell us if this is going to happen again because we have lost a huge amount of business,” he said.