21 Aug 2012

I have a date tomorrow with mud

Heavy showers were forecast during today – fairly typical August weather in Lancashire, unfortunately. And right on cue, it started raining quite heavily as I was eating a somewhat late lunch.

As I listened to it getting heavier, I decided to check if it was splashing in through the open backdoor and as I was greeted by a patch of wet floor, I mopped up the wet patch and pushed the door closed, expecting it to be temporary until the shower passed. There was nothing especially noteworthy at that point – within 15 minutes that had changed considerably.

It progressed to raining substantially and then there was a flash of lightning. As I started clearing away my lunch dishes, braced for the imminent thunder, I spotted a large spider walking down the inside of the kitchen window and decided to catch it and put it outside – when I reached the window, it was evident that the rain was significantly heavier than I’d realised as I was greeted by the sight of the garden completely under a deep layer of muddy brown water a mere handful of minutes after there hadn’t even been a puddle.

It was running like a river through the garden and over the low perimeter wall like a waterfall – as the stones at the base of the perimeter railings are about 10″ or so deep, that must have been the minimum depth of the water.

The muddy rock-carrying water hurtling at speed past the front door.

I was now aware of the sound of running water and dashed to the front door, wondering whether it was wise or not to open it for a look out, so I cracked it very gingerly and was met by a torrent of incredibly fast moving water running down the path around the house and lapping over the front door step, just breaching the deep metal channel in the doorway. It was rumbling and rattling with the sound of rocks and debris being carried along in the stream of mud.

The water and mud poured over the pavement, garden and front path, deep enough to totally obscure the structures and differentiation between the levels.

The mud flowing through the garden a little while later once the peak level of flow had subsided a little.

I stood in the lounge and was aware of the sound of running water underneath me – I’d totally forgotten about the cellar underneath the house. I cleared the area at the top of the cellar steps so that I could open the door and peer down and was almost afraid to look. I could hear very fast running – no; gushing – water and a lot of crashing and banging. I shone a torch down the steep steps and could see muddy water lapping against about the fourth step up the stairs – the large marbled square above is a heavy kitchen worktop which had been stacked several feet away – now floating and bobbing about in the deep water.

I decided that there was nothing whatsoever that I could do about that and I’d just have to let it be and whatever happened happened. As I walked away I heard a large crash and a lot of banging and at the time, I thought it was just something large falling over, but we later saw that it was the window smashing inwards under the force and weight of the water and mud.

The cellar has an external window, but it’s below ground level and there is a recess in the path around the house to allow light into it and there is a grid within the path covering this ‘hole’. As this structure was right at the point where several flows of water converged, the large recess around the window obviously rapidly filled with water and the weight of it was clearly too much for the window frame and surround to hold. We can’t yet fully assess the damage as everything is covered in mud, but can see shards of glass sticking out of the frame at one side and splintered wood on the other.

The entire events described above lasted for a period of no more than 15 minutes, from pushing the door closed as the rain increased and splashed my flooring to realising the extent of the event occurring and being largely helpless to mitigate the damage. After about 45 minutes of a pretty substantial thunder storm it eased and the flow of water slowed, only to return in another pulse a couple of hours later as people were assessing the damage and starting to clear up.

Locals and a couple of council workers built me a little wall at the end of the path (which goes round our house and the rest in the row) with sandbags and buckets of stones that they gathered from the middle of the road as the firemen had been up the top of the hill to source the deluge of mud and rocks and found that one of a pair of fishing lodges had burst it banks in spectacular fashion and it was their assessment that the second was close behind and if we got more rain of that magnitude overnight it certainly wouldn’t hold. So the wall was to protect against a second potentially catastrophic event overnight. Thankfully although it rained several times overnight, it was rather more subdued than earlier downpours.

After the water subsided, it has left a layer of mud over everything in the area – my garden is going to need quite some cleaning. At the other end where the flow entered the garden, the gravel covering it has been swept away, even stripping back and displacing the liner fabric underneath and gouging a hole in the mud beneath.

The water levels have now subsided, but in its wake is a lot of mud, rocks and debris and the cellar (which thankfully has a large drain in the floor, at least some of the source of the flooding initially) is now under about 8″ of stinking silty mud – all our considerable amount of junk (and thankfully, that’s mostly what it is) that’s stored down there has been tossed about it the torrent and left in a scattered filthy mess – and the prospect of trying to sort it out doesn’t exactly fill me with joy. Mr Boo declared “I know I was overdue for clearing out the cellar, but this wasn’t quite what I had in mind.”

So my day will be filled with buckets of mud (I don’t actually know where to start – how does one dispose of tons of mud?) and phone calls to insurers – suddenly the prospect of photographing and listing a lot of jewellery which had been my plan for today, seems far more attractive than it usually feels!

Post script:

It transpires that the deluge of mud and water wasn’t from the fishing lodge (although it certainly overflowed), but purely the volume and force of rainwater, with nowhere else to go, cascading down the hillside above, dragging anything loose it crossed with it. The private drive to a large detached house much higher up has been removed down to the gas and water mains and most of that earth and gravel is what is now in our houses. The council have done a Sterling job this morning, using diggers and flat beds, to remove the bulk of the debris from the public roads and pavements and it looks significantly better than it did. They have removed many, many tons of mud and rubble.

It looks like we might avoid having to deal with the worst of the mess ourselves, it seems that the insurers employ specialist clean up companies for just such tasks, who have the right gear to do it quickly and efficiently and they’ll also assess what needs replacing for the contents claim.

6 thoughts on “I have a date tomorrow with mud

  1. Thanks for the kind thoughts – I could have done without it, to be honest, but am also well aware that it could have been very much worse, so am trying to keep it in perspective.

  2. Thank you for your kind thoughts Wendy – it’s much appreciated. It looks like the insurance will take care of it all for us – we’ll just have some upheaval for a week or two.

    Please don’t be shy abut commenting, your English is truly excellent – and certainly significantly better than my French.

    I’m looking forward to making some new pieces too.

  3. I follow your blog since months without posting any comments ( I’m french, don’t speak english very well and I’m a little bit shy…).
    But for this particular post I wanted you to know that I totally empathize with you. Hope the insurance could fix all damage for you so you can quickly forget this bad day and make your amazing jewellery again…

    I look forward to see new pieces from you as you are a kind of mentor to me.

  4. Thank you for the kind thoughts. It looks like our insurance might cover a specialist cleaning company who clean up and report on the value of the damage – so they’re coming later to assess what’s needed. The contents of the cellar looks like it’s been through a mud washing machine, the force of the water has relocated everything, including the tumble drier and freezer (empty thankfully, we only use it at Christmas).

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