On 28th June 2012 I was travelling from my home in Whitley Bay to Newcastle, about a 20 minute journey, when I was caught in a storm which caused flash flooding.
It was like something out of a sci-fi film, the sky literally turned black and you could hear the clouds crashing together, the thunder was so loud. Within seconds the rain started and it was so heavy, it was bouncing back up from the ground meters into the air. I was in the car with my two sons, age 2 and 4 years, and I had to stop the car as it was becoming dangerous. The roads were quickly flooding and the car was being pulled along by the current under the flood water. The kids were loving it, they found it exciting, but I was worried!
I had to stop the car and think about how to escape from the flood water. At least the car was not being pulled about now. We were stuck for over an hour in the gridlocked traffic, and the water levels were rising. I was listening to the local radio station and hearing about people abandoning their cars which I knew would not be safe with the kids in the back. I saw some people starting to panic and try to drive through the water. At this point I spotted a gap in the traffic and did a quick U-turn which enabled me to drive down the opposite side of the road. I managed to get on a clear road, but there was no way of returning to Whitley Bay so I decided to head for Sunderland where my Mum lived. I was so relieved that the kids were safe when I parked outside my Mum's house.
All of the roads heading North from Sunderland were closed and so we made a big bed for all of us on the lounge floor. We watched the television and saw that the flood water was over 3 meters high in some places, covering cars and sweeping people off their feet. I realised how lucky we had been. After midnight I decided to take the boys home as they wouldn't settle at my Mum's house and the flood waters had subsided in most places. It was so strange driving back. The roads were all opened but they were covered in abandoned cars, a lot of them damaged after being submerged in the water.
The next day I learned that my older son's primary school, Langley First School in North Tyneside, had been closed down as the whole school had been submerged in flood water. The news was devastating as the school lost so many of their resources. All of the books, computers and equipment on the ground level had to be thrown out. The teachers lost valuable resources that they had collected over the years. They managed to place the pupils in neighbouring schools for the rest of the summer term, but the nursery children were not found alternative places, so they had an extra 5 weeks off before the summer holidays began.
The project to clean the school up was a huge task. The whole building had to be dried, sterilised, repaired and decorated. It managed to open just in time for the new academic year in September 2012 but they still lacked lots of equipment. The schools supporting charity, the friends of Langley, managed to raise over £6000 at their Summer fayre to help out. This is currently being spent on replacing much needed resources.
Luckily, our house wasn't affected but a lot of the neighbouring houses were, with some friends still living in temporary accommodation while their homes are being repaired. It was such an awful time for everyone affected, but the positive was that it really did bring everyone together. There was such a sense of community spirit as everyone mucked in and helped each other out, building friendships and better connections between the school and the community.