COVERACK FLOOD - A Reflection
It happened on a summer's
day. Sometime in the
afternoon of 18th July. A massive, isolated storm
hit the fishing village of Coverack, where I live,
with a deluge so intense and destructive, it's
been described by many residents, as "apocalyptic".
It began as an innocent
kind of day - neither
one thing or another. At lunchtime, I look out
to sea; the colours were unnatural; the sky was
broody and sulphurous, and the sea, an opaque,
bruised grey-green; although there wasn't any wind,
a clean swell came in from the east, breaking
waves over the lifeboat slip and harbour wall.
I'm not claiming there was an unnatural silence
and the birds stopped singing and fell out of the
trees, but it didn't feel right. In fact, I'd tweeted
earlier in the day, 'looks like we're in for nasty
weather'! Perhaps the air pressure dropped significantly,
but it was an omen of what was to come.
The hail began to strike
of ice, the size of marbles, sprayed through
leaves and flowers like random machine gun fire,
ripping and puncturing delicate summer blooms;
it bounced off roof tiles, dented car bodywork
and smashed glass. The hail was a battering, clattering
trail-blazer ahead of the rain.
And what rain: spiteful
and vindictive. I've not
experienced 'weather' so mean and intent on destruction
since the night the Solomon Browne went down. We
sat through it; mesmerised and in awe at the volume
of the deluge. I'm not often lost for words, but
to describe the intensity of the rain falling as
torrential is inadequate. It was ferocious, loud
Along the side of our garden, we have a gentle,
meandering stream that forms the boundary between
ourselves and farmland; the stream slopes down
from rough moorland, Maen Dale, managed by Natural
England about a mile away. Within minutes, like
palomino 'horses of the apocalypse', a wall of
water jostled and jumped through and over the hedge
and our entire garden was immersed; I was struck
by the colour.... it was like the frosting on a
coffee and walnut cake, frothing and foaming in
a crazed, dizzy, directionless turmoil. Too powerful
for the culvert under a little bridge to cope,
the water swept over a three foot wall, into the
lane, descended through my neighbour's garden,
flooding homes before spewing onto the beach, collecting
boulders, trees and earth in its wake of destruction.
Once the rain stopped, the water level subsided
quickly. The post-deluvian debris was devastating.
It had taken twelve years to create my beautiful,
subtropical paradise, my little piece of heaven,
and it was trashed to detritus within an hour.
The paving, patios and walls were smashed or missing.
The entire garden was strewn with rocks and a fine,
biscuit coloured sediment and gravel paths were
washed away into other peoples' gardens and homes.
The riverbank was gouged out to reveal roots and
rocks and the stream was unrecognisable. Huge boulders
piled on top of each other, straddled by uprooted
trees and, strangely, a clump of bamboo...I don't
Cornwall Council declared
a major state of emergency and within a short time, a number of villagers
had lost more than their gardens. Homes and businesses
were flooded, one couple had to be airlifted from
their roof and the surface of the main road erupted
with the force of water surging under tarmac gathering
huge boulders in its wake, rolling like skittle
down to the sea front.
I've accepted the event enough to document the
day while the memories are fresh but raw enough
re-live the emotion and put it in perspective,
to be reflective and analyse my feelings. There
were two overriding emotions; helplessness and
shock. Helpless, waiting for the force of nature
to relent as the rain fell and all we could do
was watch, aghast, as the water level rose. And
shock; the destruction of the aftermath was numbing;
my senses couldn't keep pace with what had happened.
I knew it was real and yet the reality was lodged
in my subconscious mind.
The next day, the reality
was too evident. Every
day items that represent the fundamentals of hearth
and home, were dumped in the open: a bedside cupboard
with the drawers missing, a pile of sodden carpet
and a dented saucepan, piled up outside a neighbour's
flooded home. A number of cottages are still uninhabitable
and the scars are obvious throughout the village.
The emergency services, Environment
Agency and Cormac, Cornwall Council's highways
division, cannot be given enough praise for the
amazing response to the situation. It is widely
reported that the road was repaired within days.
It's not simply people doing their jobs, but volunteers,
the community, government agencies, re-acted with
such patience, understanding and kindness. I'll
never again admit to 'compassion fatigue', or lack
sympathy as we view those traumatised by real devastation...
it's a different story when it happens in your
own 'back yard',
I'll conclude with a quote
I heard from a tough,
seafaring local man, 'I don't cry, but if i did,
I'd cry today'. A few simple words that reflect
our collective heartbreak. But tears dry, smiles
return and we'll go back to what we had before
long after Coverack had its day in the media spotlight:
a community that cares for each other and is as
rock solid as the lumps of granite deposited in
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