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It never rains...

25.06.12 | But it pours!

Flood on Market St Hebden Bridge - Kat Birch
It should be midsummer. Skipping lambs on long lazy evenings, or something like that. But midsummer this year has brought rain. And rain in such incredible quantity that on Friday I was feeling quite depressed by the constant grey sheets of water hammering outside. 
I left for home and passed the river at Callis thinking 'that looks quite high'.
Just after tea there was a banging on my door. A friend and her son were stranded - the main Rochdale Road through Todmorden was flooded just below my house. When I went down to look, it was quite clear I wouldn't be going anywhere that night.
On Twitter, Ed from Snug Gallery had announced that he'd turned round and was heading back to save his shop. I could see other people posting pictures and warnings, but I couldn't do anything but wait and hope.
Makepiece is on a rise on Market Street - it's never flooded, not even when lower lying shops had a couple of inches of water in them in floods a few years ago. So I was reasonably optimistic for some time.
(picture: copyright Kat Birch with kind permission)
Hannah from Radiance was sending updates - it sounded awful for everyone else. There were pictures on Twitter of a car floating in the centre of Market Street. It was obvious that the Co-op was underwater and the tide was rising. Then just before midnight Hannah texted to warn me that the flood had reached the step of Hebden Computers - my next door neighbour.
There was a tweet offering help from Giles Dring (@gilesdring) but there were no sandbags to barricade the door with. So I just had to wait. He sent me a photo! Not that it was very confidence inspiring, but it did show that the waters had not yet got into the shop.
(picture: copyright Giles Dring with kind permission)

Well, the waters rose and rose. But by some miracle they stopped just short of our step. And then they started to recede.

But the story for Market Street isn't so lucky. Of our thirty or so businesses only about five have been similarly fortunate. On Saturday morning I loaded up with the things I thought might help someone - a pressure washer and a large blower and headed into Hebden.

The pressure washer turned out to be the most useful - clearing the silt and mud off floors is only the first step in the clean-up but it's one that makes the whole endeavour feel possible. With Mike from The Print Bureau (@ThePrintBureau) we jetted and swept out Sage and Onion and Ruby Shoesday. Then the Deli. Then Dynamite (where the water had been lapping above the window display). Just as I was having a go at the pavement outside (the muddy pavements were quite depressing and were tracking back into shops as they were being cleaned) the guys from the Chinese turned up and I moved on into there.

It must have been very scary - they were open as the waters rose and had had to retreat upstairs and watch and wait, unable to do or save anything. Their cars parked at the rear were ruined too. We hosed down the whole downstairs, jetting the mud and brushing out the dirty water. It will be a while before the whole process of sterilization is complete, but just tackling the mud was satisfying.

After this initial stage shops will have to go through different processes depending on their floors (carpets will have to go and some wood floors might too, most tiles can be cleaned). Then there's redecorating and restocking.

It's a mammoth job, but everyone's going about it with such dedication.

We're a street of independent shops who truly depend on each other to be a critical mass of interesting, diverse, unique businesses. We've a high proportion of  designer makers like Makepiece: Hannah Nunn at Radiance makes beautiful lights, the Yorkshire Soap Company design and make gorgeous soaps above their shop, Chrissie at Hat Therapy is a milliner; and also galleries supporting designer makers - like Snug and the Heart Gallery.

Together we're stronger - and this week we're really proving how much we mean to each other by helping each other. It's been touching too how many people have just made trays of tea and brought them out to the shop keepers who are cleaning. A reminder that people are basically very kind.

Amazingly, some shops have managed a super fast turnaround. Others are on course to be open on Saturday. That is truly miraculous and cheering.