This time last year nobody could have anticipated what the first seven days of August would have in store for the people of Whaley Bridge.
Whaley Bridge: One Year On
On August 1 2019 at 10.40am, we received the call to say that Toddbrook Reservoir at Whaley Bridge was collapsing.
“I’m at the bowling club and the reservoir is collapsing and I’ve been watching it for five minutes, a huge concrete slab about 15-20 feet long has fell off and another piece is coming away as we speak. There’s a lot of houses in direct line of it if it goes. It’s so dangerous. The concrete holding [the] water in is completely disintegrating.”
Within an hour, partner agencies had been informed, a major incident had been declared and Emergency Planning had started. Inspector Justin Brown assumed command of incident at the scene, road blocks were swiftly put in place, and messages started being sent to members of the public.
It is in no way over-dramatic to say that the town was a coin flip away from disaster but, thanks to the incredible residents and businesses of Whaley and an unprecedented multi-agency response, the town was saved.
Deputy and soon-to-be Chief Constable Rachel Swann said: “Looking back now, my overriding feeling is one of pride.
“Pride in the fortitude of the brave residents who, when asked to leave everything they had in their homes, did so with just minutes to collect their belongings. In the unwavering support that they showed to the emergency services, council partners, LRF partners and military who were working day and night to save their homes and businesses.
“And of course, in the dedication of those who put their lives on the line in those critical early hours as well as every day after. Everyone who was asked played their part and helped make the operation a success.”
Over the course of the week, more than 1000 residents were evacuated, which meant putting countless police officers in the potential flood area and each one of them fully understood the risk and didn’t hesitate when asked to support the evacuation.
Multi-agency teams and volunteers worked tirelessly to pump water from Toddbrook Reservoir and ensure the stability of the dam wall so that residents could return home safely.
Mrs Swann added: “There is no doubt that the lessons learned, and relationships forged, in those long August days helped prepare us for the current crisis we find ourselves in.
“While I have been involved in many different operations during my policing career the town of Whaley Bridge will always be a reminder of the power of cooperation and the strength of our communities.”
Today we celebrate the hard work of everyone involved in the incident, and celebrate the resilience and bravery of the residents in the face of adversity.