Sandbags and turkey leftovers: What Christmas was like in flooded York

Wet, basically

Christmas is usually a time for merriment and being with family (not always one and the same). Yet on Boxing Day this year the people of Yorkshire found themselves with flood water swirling around their Christmas trees.

Photo: Havana Clark

The “unprecedented” flooding provided some stunning aerial footage of course, which was flashed around by major news channels like a trophy. The BBC even created a handy “slider” feature to some of their online reports, making comparing water levels from your comfy sofa even easier. The news was also full of smiley northerners getting stuck in and pulling together the remains of their now-sodden lives.

Apparently Sir Philip Dilley, chairman of the Environmental Agency, didn’t catch the news though, as he only left his Barbados home to visit flooded areas on December 30. I guess if you have to choose between Barbados and a damp York it’s a tough decision.

Photo: Havana Clark

Of course the politicians also descended. Jezza Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon were out foraging for PR coverage, and even Prince Charles got out his wellingtons to join the tide of big names arriving in York. Who can blame them when flooding provides such an excellent photo opportunity in front of damaged bridges (Liz Truss, I’m looking at you). DavCam was first out of the gate however, sporting shiny wellies to match his shiny face as he denied the existence of a north/south divide and said: “We spend more per head on flood defences in the north of England than we do in the south of England”.

Photo: Havana Clark

He’s not technically wrong. When comparing 2014’s Somerset Levels flooding there isn’t much of a difference between spending. The difference is the Levels consisted of a few small towns and vast expanses of fields flooding, whereas here we’re talking about major towns such as Manchester, York and Leeds, as well as half of Scotland apparently. Some have chosen to take what I call “the ignorant route”, with plenty of Facebook posts appearing which say “share if you think we should be spending money from our £10 billion a year foreign aid budget to help prevent flooding here at home instead”. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: the foreign aid budget is merely 0.7 per cent of the UK’s GDP, in other words small change.

Photo: Havana Clark

Apparently there’s a large amount of money being spent on flooding, £100 million since 2010 and a further £280 million on its way. But to me, most of it appears to be plugging a growing leak (pardon the pun). Sand bags are a trusty preventative method, but this is the 21st century – surely there’s something a bit more modern that can be used? Chinook helicopters look rather impressive on the news, but the army can’t be called in every time a river gets a bit full – that just makes them firefighters with guns.

Money should be spent on stopping flooding occurring in the first place, not as damage control. Many can’t insure their homes and those who can are left with huge excesses by having to claim every few years when the rain gets a bit much. Preventative measures would be nice to see: has anyone thought of putting in some big walls? I don’t think York has any of those…

I’m off to build an ark.