Remembering the effects of Morpeth flood in 2008 and still time to tell your story

Flooding in Morpeth.
Flooding in Morpeth.

Residents and officials have begun to talk about their experiences of the major flood in Morpeth ahead of the events to mark its 10-year anniversary in the Town Hall on September 8 and 9.

More than 1,000 residential and business properties were damaged on September 6, 2008, as a result of the River Wansbeck bursting its banks and surface water flooding.

On the morning of the flood, Hannah Welfare and her husband drove out of Morpeth for a family wedding.

After hearing about what happened – it was the main story on the national news – the following morning, they returned to the town and Hannah hurried down the Mitford Road to visit her friend Sally.

She said: “Sally and her husband stood outside their house, which was submerged in several feet of muddy, fetid water.

“Their faces were white as they told me they had been forced to carry their children, dog and two pet rabbits out of their first floor window.

“I then wandered through the town, which was heaving with television and newspaper reporters. Most of the shops were flooded in the town centre and some of them never re-opened after the flood damage.

“The park was the saddest, most frightening sight of all. The trees had been submerged up to their necks and, for a long time afterwards, bore tapes around their trunks to serve as a grim reminder of how high the water had risen.

“The lush, green grass was covered in ugly swathes of smelly, bubbling silt from the riverbed.

“The shock reverberated through the town for months. The damage that filthy water, toxic with sewage, can cause is as devastating as fire.

“Some people were out of their homes for years. My friend Sally and her family didn’t return home for two years and eventually sold their house as they never felt safe there again.”

Personnel from the Environment Agency will be at the photographic exhibition on September 9. Residents can discuss the flood defence scheme and/or the flood warning service with them.

Alan Cadas, operations manager for the Environment Agency in the North East, said: “I was on duty in the incident room during this flood event and I remember all too well just how devastating it was for all the communities affected.

“A period of almost continuous rainfall starting from Friday, September 5, led to some unprecedented river levels – and on the River Wansbeck we saw the highest river levels ever from records dating back more than 40 years.

“River levels at Mitford rose almost one metre in the space of five hours and the flow was ferocious. The surface water drains were overwhelmed.

“It has been a long road to recovery for residents in Morpeth, who of course also suffered flooding in 2012, but they have great resilience and determination.

“This has without doubt helped us work together with them and our partners to build and complete a new flood scheme for the town, the biggest in the North East, which hopefully now gives them some peace of mind.”

Anyone wishing to learn more about the events in the Town Hall or share their story can call Barbara Ross on 07718 989566 or email morpethflood2008heritage@gmail.com