Indeed. Barely a month since we reflected on the Easter rains of two decades ago, they have visited again. And because the topography of the town hasn’t changed since, it is the same part of Northampton – Far Cotton – which has been worst affected, along with roads out by Junction 15 of the M1. Should we be surprised?
After the 1998 floods I remember being amazed to see new housebuilding going on between the St James Retail Park and London Road. As somebody who grew up knowing that it was always St Leonard’s Road which bore the brunt of any flooding in the town, I could not fathom why anyone would build there, except perhaps on the basis of corporate greed. Maybe it was the hope that the notion of “buyer beware” would mitigate any accusation of hurrying to develop property on a known flood plain to the south of the town. Certainly the expectation would have been that the rains of 1998 and the circumstances which led them to being held back rather than released by the Rushmills sluices would never again hit the town. And yet, here we are. History has repeated itself at least in part and once more Far Cotton folk have found themselves in the process of clearing up, drying out, claiming on insurance and trying to restore normality. I wonder what price their premiums will be next year – twenty years ago there was concern that the area would be deemed to be uninsurable. I used to live just two streets away and was spared the worst of 1998 so my heart goes out to anybody affected not only once then, but perhaps again now. I’ve not seen it reported – but did the floods sirens sound?
As it turns out, I was away from the county in France over the weekend when the rain came. I received a very clear understanding of what was happening through social media and news reporting though. The images coming back of the floods themselves told a graphic story and just hours later the same strength storms arrived in mainland Europe. I was awakened in the early hours by the roar of torrential rain and the sight of a lightening-lit French garden as if the sun of six hours previously was still shining at full strength. There is perhaps a tendency for humans to be awestruck – even entertained – by the excesses of the weather. I have always said that if it’s going to rain I would rather that it pours, if it’s going to be sunny it should be blisteringly so and that if the forecast is for snow it should be blizzard strength – but I’ve always added the verbal proviso “as long as nobody is badly affected”. From my current home I can see into the Rushmills flood barrage – there’s a been a lot of water there but there’s plenty of space for still more. So why the problems in town?
Already – and perhaps unsurprisingly – there have been claims that the Borough Council is in some part responsible for not ensuring that storm drains were unblocked and able to take the force of the rain as it fell. I wasn’t there to witness events for myself but investigations will undoubtedly take place and report back. The point though is that torrential rain fell here – again. In an age of global warming the extremes of weather are becoming more frequent and more pronounced. For Northamptonshire what was once viewed as impossible might not only happen again, but more frequently and to a greater extent too.
We have been warned…