Thursday, 14 January 2016

Flooding Aberdeenshire

On the 30th December 2015 disaster struck in Deeside, Aberdeenshire, when the River Dee had to cope with extreme amounts of water due to heavy rainfall in the mountains caused by storm Frank. The river had never been as high as this since recordings started. A large part of the village Ballater flooded so people had to evacuate, almost all bridges over the Dee closed (right up to Aberdeen), some historic ones were badly damaged by the force of water and a 16th century castle was about to fall in the river. Even a 300 meter section of the main road between Ballater and Braemar got washed away completely!

There were many people who posted videos and photos on YouTube and Facebook. This particular video of a mobile caravan being taken by the river as if it was just made from paper was the most shocking one and made the national news.

In the evening we walked to the bridge in Banchory and we just couldn't believe our eyes. The arches of the bridge were barely visible! Around 6pm it reached its highest level, about 5.2 meters. Normally it's about 2 meters!!

On New Year's Day the river had retreated again and we went out for a walk to see what had actually happened. It was just shocking and impressive at the same time to see the devastation. Below is a selection of photos I took:

Debris along footpath in Banchory ©Fenfolio2016

The river had washed away all the leaves on the track ©Fenfolio2016

Part of a mobile caravan which is left behind

Furniture too was taken away from houses and dumped downstream

This track is completely damaged ©Fenfolio2016

A tunnel carved hrough the river bank by
the force of the water ©Fenfolio2016

A ghillie hut (for fishermen) barely survived the ordeal

Many meters of river bank was taken away ©Fenfolio2016

The whole area on the left of the track was flooded ©Fenfolio2016

Dried grass and needles neatly rolled up by the river

Dried pine needles deposited high in the trees ©Fenfolio2016

Caddisfly larvae were also deposited on the river bank
and left in a puddle to die ©Fenfolio201

Even a smolt (young salmon) got stuck in a puddle! ©Fenfolio2016

This eel was barely alive. We put it back in the river but it might
have been too late for him. ©Fenfolio2016

We also found giant freshwater mussels on dry ground
far away from the actual river which we put back.
They are highly protected species and many years of
conservation work has been lost.

Debris everywhere high up in trees ©Fenfolio2016

Debris everywhere high up in trees ©Fenfolio2016

Via Facebook I got involved with the group Hope Floats, consisting of people (about 6,000 members) who wanted to help the local community by volunteering. Even though Aberdeenshire Council and the emergency services are mainly responsible to deal with events like this, many Council employees were not back yet from their holiday. Also, this crisis was just too big for the Council to take care of in the first few days of the aftermath. Hope Floats coordinated the supply of sand and bags, the filling and transportion of sandbags, receiving and storing donations like food (supermarkets were flooded), clothes and furniture, liaising with people and businesses for pumps and dehumidifiers, etc.

One day I was helping out in the village Aboyne which was flooded too by going round the houses to see whether they needed anything. Then I learnt that people can also be affected by flooding indirectly, especially vulnerable people who are less mobile or ill. Someone from the local radio station joined us on our round and interviewed us. When I came back to our base station BBC Radio Scotland was there to interview the initiators of Hope Floats and they also interviewed me! Here's the link to the programme:
You can hear me talk from 1:04:57 till 1:06:17. For more background information about what has caused this disaster and what could be done about it I would recommend listening to the whole programme. Especially the interviews with the president of the National Farming Union (0:11:00) and the Hutton Institute (0:17:00-0:24:00) are insightful.

A week later, after about 9 days of consistent rain during another low pressure front, there was another flooding, only this time Donsidesuch as Inverurie, Kintore, Alford and Kemney was hit too. People had to evacuate here as the river Don had burst its banks.
While this was happening it was still ok in Banchory so I walked to the River Feugh so see the state. I had never seen it that high! Not long afterwards the bridge was temporarily closed and you can see why in these videos:

Although it will take years for this area to recover and major changes have to take place in the way land is managed here sooner rather than later, there are already some positive things happening. The main road that was washed away has been temporarily replaced by a road further inland, the Invercauld bridge near Braemar that was closed for more than a week has been repaired, the 16th century Abergeldie castle is still there, the government has pledged millions of pounds and charities have raised a lot of money for the restoration. And hopefully more awareness is created that climate change will affect us one way or the other. So after rain comes sunshine, eventually!

A beautiful sunny day after a week of horrendous weather ©Fenfolio2016

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