When the going got tough these heroes got going - the 2014 floods

Bicester Advertiser: This was how Botley Road, running left to right, up to Oxford Railway station looked from the air on February 10 This was how Botley Road, running left to right, up to Oxford Railway station looked from the air on February 10

True community spirit on show in Cane Lane

The Oxfordshire County Councillor for Grove and Wantage Zoe Patrick has praised the community for rallying together during the floods.

Bicester Advertiser:

  • Cllr Zoe Patrick 

When the road was blocked off from the rest of the village because of the flooding a car had become stuck and residents were unable to get out of the street which is cut off at one end by a barrier.

But some quick thinking and communication between residents and Ms Patrick led to the parish clerk Graham Mundy coming to the aid by locating the key and opening the barrier to allow vehicles and residents through.

Bicester Advertiser:

  • Graham Mundy

Ms Patrick said: “The residents called me up at about 6am about the lane being blocked because of the flash floods. I called the parish clerk and chairman and Mr Mundy was about to get down there and open the gate. And the people living in the area had managed to pull the car out of the water and it was able to get out.

“The fire and rescue service was also brilliant in helping the residents lift sandbags to protect their homes. It was a collective effort from everybody involving plenty of organising and people passing messages on. It showed us rallying together a community – a community spirit we are proud of in Grove.”

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Mr Mundy said: “I was called by my chairman at about 7am. He asked if I could open the barrier in Cane Lane to allow the vehicles the other side through. Cane Lane was one of the most affected areas by the floods. With the help of the fire service, we were able to work together as a team.”

Andy Webber and Nick Hills

Earl Street residents Andy Webber and Nick Hills have been hailed flood heroes for using pumps to clear his neighbour’s flooded gardens.

Disabled pensioner Susan Libor, 84, nominated Mr Webber for his help with her garden.

Bicester Advertiser:

  • Andy Webber

Mrs Libor said she was “very worried” about the risk of her home being flooded, but wants to thank her neighbours who, in the middle of the night on Tuesday February 11, used their own pumps to pump water out of neighbours’ flooded gardens and into the street.

Bicester Advertiser:

  • Nick Hills

Andy Webber, Nick Hills and others went out in the rain to try to save their neighbours’ homes on Earl Street from flooding.

Mrs Libor said: “They worked in the middle of the night, they were out all night in the wet weather watching whether it worked or not.

“Andy kept telling me not to worry, saying ‘you’ll be ok’.

“They did more than they could.

“The Environment Agency didn’t spend all night checking it, but there was water getting in four houses on the street.

“Andy didn’t check the water level in his own bathroom, he was so busy looking after us.

“These guys really deserve to thanked, we are so grateful to them that water didn’t come in our houses.”

Mr Webber, 61, said: “It wasn’t just me.

“I put my pump into number 17 and started pumping water out of the gardens, but it failed in the end so we got another pump from my neighbour Chris in Duke Street.

“He had a big pump. We set that up, and by pumping water out of the garden on the end into the road, which was then picked up by the Environment Agency pump, we were able to drain water out of four people's gardens.”

Margaret Hurst

Chalgrove resident Margaret Hurst has been praised by her neighbours for helping them out in the floods.

Bicester Advertiser:

  • Margaret Hurst, left, who helped her neighbours, Percy and Barbara Buckingham when their home flooded

Percy Buckingham said: “I can name a whole number of people that came to help us over the week.

“But, Margaret has done all she can for us. She got the sandbags to go across the garden.

“My wife and I couldn’t get out of the house. She has been a brick all the way through. I just can’t thank her enough.”

Mrs Hurst, 63, regularly takes her neighbours shopping, and said: “It is just what I think you should do.

“I’ve lived in Chalgrove for five and a half years now and have got to know them both very well.

“They are such a nice couple and are like part of the family. How can you not help?”

Mary Timbrell

Mary Timbrell was nominated by neighbours for her work as a volunteer flood warden on Duke Street.

Bicester Advertiser:

  • Mary Timbrell

The 76 year-old went from door-to-door on the West Oxford Street posting letters warning neighbours about potential flood risks.

Three generations of Mrs Timbrell’s family have lived on Duke Street and her house was flooded for the first time in 2007.

Mrs Timbrell said: “The letters are to make sure that everybody gets the message. I post them through the doors so everyone can read the latest news.”

The flood warden also helped neighbours by taking in a dog for a few days and was pleased to be able to help.

Modest Miss Timbrell added: “I am just passing on the messages from the Environment Agency. They give me the most up-to-date information.”

Ollie Hearn and Andy Whittington

Oxford City Council singled out Oliie Hearn, left, and Andy Whittington, members of their team which worked round the clock, during the floods.

Bicester Advertiser:

  • Ollie Hearn, left, and Andy Whittington

Highways supervisor Mr Hearn and operational manager Mr Whittington supervised pumps in Botley and Abingdon Road under the leadership of Shaun Hatton. Both worked 14 hour days throughout the floods. And it was Mr Whittington who proposed that high volume pumps should be deployed to clear the flood water in Abingdon Road.

The plan meant that the road was reopened earlier than expected and similar plans are already in place across Oxford in preparation for future flooding.

Mr Whittington said: “The water was nowhere near as high as it was in January. The guys were on site at Bullstake Close before the water came and we were all set up in good time.”

From packing sandbags and operating the pumps, to reassuring residents and clearing the roads, the team has been praised by local businesses too.

Honey Lucas, from Oxfordshire Mind, said: “The guys in charge of the pumps on the Ferry Hinksey and Botley roads have done a brilliant job keeping the flood waters off the road and out of the offices. We know that they have been manning the pumps 24 hours a day. They’ve done such a brilliant job and we know that our offices would have flooded if it was not for them. They have really helped us to keep the offices running as normal.”

Oxfordshire’s Fire and Rescue

Oxfordshire’s Fire and Rescue Service had to deal with more than 120 flooding-related calls in just one week to locations across the county.

Bicester Advertiser:

  • Mat Carlile

And the crews working round the clock to respond to them have been nominated by area manager for strategic risk and planning Mat Carlile.

He said: “Once again firefighters stepped up to the mark.”

They were out in force in Botley and Abingdon Road pumping floodwater away and offering assistance to those living in the area. But they also had to deal with more dramatic incidents – rescuing 37 children from a school coach stranded in floodwater near Faringdon and helping 25 people leave their flooded homes at the Bablockhythe Caravan Park.

Mr Carlile commended the work of officers in keeping Botley Road open this time round.

High volume pumps on Botley and Abingdon roads between them pumped 7,000 litres of water away every minute.

Mr Carlile said: “I’d also like to pay tribute to all our colleagues in other services and the council. We all worked well together and they did a fantastic job. It’s at times of crisis like these that you see the best in people and I witnessed, in abundance, communities helping themselves get through these terrible floods.”

The Environment Agency

Bicester Advertiser:

  • Environment Agency workers putting flood defences up on Osney Island, Oxford

THEY’RE seen on the ground putting up flood defences and handing out sandbags to help protect properties.

But it’s often the work behind the scenes by Environment Agency workers that makes a big difference during floods on the levels we’ve seen in the last two months.

Senior media officer Ash Dobson, nominated all the EA staff who have worked to deal with the flooding.

He said: “Since before Christmas EA staff have been responding to exceptional flooding across Oxfordshire and the South East. We have just experienced the country’s wettest January since 1766.

“In some areas the flooding was worse than we saw in 2003. Our specialist staff have worked incredibly hard around the clock to forecast where flooding was expected, issue flood warnings to warn people and inform them about what to do, and to operate our flood defences across the county.”

Mr Dobson said EA staff have been working behind the scenes with the Met Office to forecast where flooding is most likely to occur and to be able to better warn communities. And he added: “All of these people are passionate about what they do and have worked tirelessly throughout the duration of this incident. We are incredibly grateful to them, and everyone else who has been involved in responding to the flooding in Oxfordshire and the wider South East.”

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