Christmas Day ‘a write off’ for families forced to flee rising flood waters

Megan Baynes, PA
·3-min read

Hundreds of families were forced to spend Christmas Day fleeing their homes following warnings from police over severe flooding.

More than 1,300 families living near the River Great Ouse in north Bedfordshire were told to find alternative accommodation or evacuate to local emergency centres, with many receiving a knock on the door late on Christmas Eve telling them to leave the area.

Clare Devany, 38, husband James Hodgson, 43, and their daughters, aged four and five, spent Christmas Day moving furniture to the top floor of their house in Bedford, before leaving to spend the night in a hotel in nearby Peterborough.

Ms Devany told the PA news agency: “You don’t realise how much stuff you have in a house until you have to move it.

Winter weather Dec 26th 2020
Flooding in Bedford after the River Great Ouse burst its banks (Joe Giddens/PA)

“We put all the furniture on to kitchen chairs and raised the sofa by two feet.

“You walk around and you just have to work out what to sacrifice. For us, that was things like the TV, because it was mounted and we didn’t have time to take it down, the living room cabinets. It’s furniture, it’s not the end of the world.

“We moved paperwork, photos, all of the kid’s memorabilia, their toys – everything came upstairs. The only thing we didn’t touch because we didn’t have time was the kitchen.”

She said the day was a festive “write off” after the family were visited by police at 10.30pm on Christmas Eve and advised to leave.

“They said Covid is a non-issue,” said Ms Devany.

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A woman takes a photo of flooding in Bedford (Joe Giddens/PA)

“At that point, we started to get really concerned. Because they said, go anywhere – you can go to Tier 2 if you need to.

“With the way things have been going, it was a bit of an eye-opener, because it has been all-consuming the last few weeks, going from Tier 2 to 3 to 4. With total lockdown and being so careful, and them turning up at the door and saying ‘that doesn’t matter now, get out’.

“It was at that point we knew we really needed to get out.

“We put the turkey in the oven and had turkey sandwiches at the hotel last night, but it really has been a panic.”

After spending Friday night at the hotel, the family returned home when flood waters receded by a few inches.

One of their daughters is non-verbal autistic and struggled with the sudden move.

Winter weather Dec 26th 2020
Floodwater surrounds The Barn Hotel in Bedford (Joe Giddens/PA)

Ms Devany said: “She’s not a big one for change, it really upset her, so if we can stay tonight, we are going to try. We will sleep in shifts and if it looks like it will breach the road at all, we will head back to the hotel.

“It’s pretty bad out there and all of the fields are within half a foot of breaching back on to the road. We have literally come within a hair’s breadth of it.

“We have been lucky – we are dry, we are safe, we have the heating on. There have been so many people out there who haven’t been as lucky.”