'We are resilient' - Millom stands tall following devastating flash flooding
A COMMUNITY has vowed not to be defeated after flash floods devastated hundreds of Copeland homes and businesses within the space of a few hours.
A freak weather event which passed over west and south Cumbria on Saturday morning resulted in widespread flooding in Millom and Haverigg as well as across the South Lakes.
One of the worst hit areas was Millom with many locals saying the rain was the worst they had seen. As many families now begin the heartbreaking task of clearing out their homes, a resilient population has said it will quickly get back on its feet.
Millom mayor, Councillor Angela Dixon, said: "We look after ourselves. We always have done. Millom is the most charitable town that I know. If you know something needs doing, it will be done.
"We are resilient. We will get over this and move on."
Heavy rain fell throughout the early hours of Saturday morning but did not seem out of the ordinary. Many thought it was simply the sign of winter beginning to set in.
However, by 9am, a downpour set in. Former mayor, Councillor Doug Wilson, described what he saw.
"I've never experienced anything like it in all my life - and I've worked all over the world. It lasted maybe a couple of hours. During that time it put an enormous amount of water down," he said.
As the waters rapidly rose, families and neighbours battled to keep it away from their properties.
Mikaila Munroe, 37, of Market Street, Millom, said at first she didn't believe what she was seeing.
She said: "I got out of bed and thought it was a river. I looked down out of my window and it was a swimming pool. It was at the top of my step and at next door's."
Her husband, Michael Munroe, is a builder and was able to fashion defences out of insulation board, creating a makeshift dam at the entrance of their property.
Others in the same street were not as fortunate as the Munroes. Mary Shovelton, 58, saw her house, also in Market Street, inundated with five inches of water within the space of 20 minutes.
She said: "My shoes were floating. My wellies were floating.
"I was with Angela (Dixon) at the time and my son called me and said 'you better come home our house is flooding'. It came in the back and the front. You couldn't see the road, you couldn't see anything. It was awful."
However, in spite of losing so many of her treasured possessions, her thoughts were on others worse off than herself. She said: "I'm so proud of the community. The Millom folks say, what can we do? Can we help? I was in a bit of a state crying my eyes out but everybody supported me."
MP for Copeland Trudy Harrison visited the area singling out the "exceptional town" for its courage in the face of adversity.
She said: "Millom is an exceptional town and that special quality of an incredibly strong community spirit stood out beyond belief. The whole town was out to help the 200 homes affected."
Mrs Harrison also visited people who battled the flood waters to hear their stories.
She continued: "I visited one home where a teenage girl, at home while her parents were working, used her initiative to plug doors with towels and soak up water with duvets, which made a tremendous difference to the damage the water would make.
“The rugby teams were out helping and Millom’s mayor Angela Dixon was rodding drains. I visited homes and was told of water ingress through the floor, not just the door."
Parts of the South Lakes were also battered by the heavy weather. Stretches of the A591 and A592 near Windermere were closed for prolonged periods as standing water made the roads impassible.
Grizebeck suffered localised flooding with eyewitnesses reporting desperate homeowners using vehicles and wooden boards to try to divert water from their homes.
A second front of weather which had been forecast for Saturday night changed direction at the last minute late in the day, sparing the area further hardship.
A clean-up operation has now begun in earnest. Community activists visited families to find out what support they need and how they can best provide it.
A fundraiser has been set up with a target of £8,000 to aid dozens of families which do not have insurance. At the time of publication it had raised more than £1,700 in less than 24 hours.
To donate visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/stephen-evans-288.