Boxing Day 2015 - Rochdale under water

Date published: 26 December 2017

In the morning of Boxing Day 2015 messages started to arrive at Rochdale Online from people worried about the level of the River Roch in Rochdale town centre, many convinced (rightly it turned out) that the unthinkable was about to happen and that the river would burst its banks and flood the town centre.

The river did burst its banks behind Number One Riverside and the culvert at Smith Street was beyond capacity and water was cascading down the street at the start of what became the most calamitous flood in Rochdale's history.

Flooding in Rochdale - Town Centre under water

Premises all the way along Smith Street, The Butts, The Walk, The Esplanade and the bottom of Yorkshire Street were submerged under filthy water as the rain that had been incessant throughout December continued to fuel the surging river.

Number One Riverside, the town's new flagship council building, was also under water, and with the electrics, phone lines and computer servers all in the basement, all communication channels to the Council were severed for a while.

The floods affected homes and businesses far beyond the town centre, from Littleborough to Heywood.

Severe flooding cause of power cuts in Rochdale

Flooding in Littleborough

Borough in flood after deluge

The Rochdale Online website struggled under the strain of up to 1,000 people a second trying to follow the news as it happened - videos taken by Rochdale Online managing director Pauline Journeaux were viewed over a quarter of a million times.

The true spirit of local people shone through as offers of help for those badly affected poured in, for example, The Flying Horse Hotel offered free rooms, and the Al Quba Mosque and Bilal Mosque opened for shelter, food and drinks.

Flying Horse offering free rooms to those affected by floods

Mosques and Youth Base offering shelter, food and supplies for flood affected

With Number One Riverside under water, the Town Hall was opened as a contact centre.

Town Hall to open as contact centre for flood affected

Mercifully, the rain stopped in the afternoon and by evening the flood water had abated, but leaving devastation in its path.

Flood waters abate leaving town centre strewn with sludge and debris

Tens of thousands were left without power as the electricity sub station at College Road had been flooded.

The following morning, Sunday 27 December, the clean up began.

Clean up begins in Rochdale town centre

The Council paid out nearly £450,000 in grants to affected homes and businesses, £185,000 in business rates relief and over £135,000 in Council Tax relief - and 150 council staff gave up their time during the festive break to support the recovery process.

Could it happen again?

Of course it could, but much work to prevent it doing so has been ongoing in the past two years.

Two new storage reservoirs, to alleviate flooding, have been completed in Littleborough (the River Roch rises on Chelburn Moor in the hills above Littleborough) and flood alleviation works have been carried out in Hare Hill Park.

Flood alleviation scheme completed in Littleborough

Flood works to start in Hare Hill Park

The council has been working with the Environment Agency on a multi-million flood defence scheme that will help protect areas at risk of flooding.

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