Christmas Day ‘a write off’ for families forced to flee rising flood waters

Thousands of families were forced to spend Christmas Day fleeing their homes following warnings from police over severe flooding.

More than 1,300 families living near the River Great Ouse in north Bedfordshire were told to find alternative accommodation or evacuate to local emergency centres, with many receiving a knock on the door late on Christmas Eve telling them to leave the area.

Clare Devany, 38, husband James Hodgson, 43, and their daughters, aged four and five, spent Christmas Day moving furniture to the top floor of their house in Bedford, before leaving to spend the night in a hotel in nearby Peterborough.

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A damaged fence panel, ripped from it's supports by the strong wind is pictured in a residential street in Portslade on the south coast of England on December 27, 2020, as Storm Bella brings rain and high winds to the UK. - Most of the UK is subject to weather warnings as Storm Bella, with wind gusts of more than 80mph - passes across the country. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
Waves crash over Newhaven Lighthouse on the south coast of England on December 27, 2020, as Storm Bella brings rain and high winds to the UK. - Most of the UK is subject to weather warnings as Storm Bella, with wind gusts of more than 80mph - passes across the country. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
WORCESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 27: Members of the Worcester Kayak club leave the flooded Worcester Racecourse on December 27, 2020 in Worcester, England. "Storm Bella" brought gales and heavy rain to the West Midlands, and caused a severe weather warning to be put in place on Saturday. (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images)
WORCESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 27: A man walks through submerged water on December 27, 2020 in Worcester, England. "Storm Bella" brought gales and heavy rain to the West Midlands, and caused a severe weather warning to be put in place on Saturday. (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images)
Illustration shows people walking in a winter landscape with snow at Signal de Botrange, in the Hautes Fagnes - Hoge Venen region, in Eastern Belgium, Sunday 27 December 2020. Storm Bella brings more snow the the highest regions of Belgium. BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS LAMBERT (Photo by NICOLAS LAMBERT/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
WORCESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 27: A sign is submerged in water surrounded by swans on December 27, 2020 in Worcester, England. "Storm Bella" brought gales and heavy rain to the West Midlands, and caused a severe weather warning to be put in place on Saturday. (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images)
WORCESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 27: Flooding at the Worcester Rowing Club on December 27, 2020 in Worcester, England. "Storm Bella" brought gales and heavy rain to the West Midlands, and caused a severe weather warning to be put in place on Saturday. (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images)
BEDFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: The River Great Ouse bursts its banks on December 26, 2020 in Bedford, England. Many people in homes and properties along the River Great Ouse were advised to move out, as a "severe" flood warning was in place. Though the water has subsided in many places, people are bracing themselves for storm Bella, which is currently sweeping across the country. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A speedboat on the flooded River Severn at Highbridge, ahead of Storm Bella. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)
BEDFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: The River Great Ouse bursts its banks on December 26, 2020 in Pavenham, England. Many people in homes and properties along the River Great Ouse were advised to move out, as a "severe" flood warning was in place. Though the water has subsided in many places, people are bracing themselves for storm Bella, which is currently sweeping across the country. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
PAVENHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: A family look at high water from a bridge looking over the River Great Ouse on December 26, 2020 in Pavenham, England. Many people in homes and properties along the River Great Ouse were advised to move out, as a "severe" flood warning was in place. Though the water has subsided in many places, people are bracing themselves for storm Bella, which is currently sweeping across the country. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
PAVENHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: A couple wearing christmas hats look at high water from a bridge looking over the River Great Ouse towards the village of Harrold on December 26, 2020 in Pavenham, England. Many people in homes and properties along the River Great Ouse were advised to move out, as a "severe" flood warning was in place. Though the water has subsided in many places, people are bracing themselves for storm Bella, which is currently sweeping across the country. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A family take advantage of the Christmas Day snow with a trip out sledging on the hills near Hexham, Northumberland. Early morning snowfall has been recorded in parts of the UK, with the Met Office declaring it a White Christmas. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
Snow covers houses at Hexham, Northumberland. Early morning snowfall has been recorded in parts of the UK, with the Met Office declaring it a White Christmas. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
A dusting of snow covers the Old Packhouse Bridge in Carrbridge in the Cairngorms National Park. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
SUFFOLK, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 24: People drive through a flooded road following heavy rainfall on December 24, 2020 in Suffolk, United Kingdom . (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
A light dusting of snow falls on Christmas Eve at Tynemouth Beach on the North East coast of England. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
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Snow covers the B9007 between Carrbridge and Forres in the Cairngorms National Park. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Waves crash against the pier wall at Tynemouth on the North East coast of England. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
Flood defences have been installed in Ironbridge, Shropshire, ahead of Storm Bella. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)
Flood water covers the racecourse at Worcester after heavy rain. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
Children's playground equipment pokes out from floodwater surrounding Tewkesbury Abbey, where flood watches are in place with more wet weather expected in the coming days. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
Flood water covers a car park after the River Severn burst its banks in Worcester following heavy rain. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
Flood water covers the racecourse at Worcester after heavy rain. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
Flood waters surround Tewkesbury Abbey, where flood watches are in place with more wet weather expected in the coming days. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
Environment Agency personnel place flood barriers on a bank of the high River Severn, near Ironbridge, Shropshire. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)
A man smiles and gives thumbs up as he poses for a picture with fake snow falling in Covent Garden as new coronavirus restrictions, announced today by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are due to take effect from midnight on Sunday, on 19 December, 2020 in London, England. London, the south-east and the east of England will enter tier 4 restrictions, similar to the last national lockdown, with a stay-at-home, closing of all non-essential retail and businesses and cancellation of the planned relaxing of rules over five days around Christmas. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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Ms Devany told the PA news agency: "You don't realise how much stuff you have in a house until you have to move it.

"We put all the furniture on to kitchen chairs and raised the sofa by two feet.

"You walk around and you just have to work out what to sacrifice. For us, that was things like the TV, because it was mounted and we didn't have time to take it down, the living room cabinets. It's furniture, it's not the end of the world.

"We moved paperwork, photos, all of the kid's memorabilia, their toys – everything came upstairs. The only thing we didn't touch because we didn't have time was the kitchen."

She said the day was a festive "write off" after the family were visited by police at 10.30pm on Christmas Eve and advised to leave.

"They said Covid is a non-issue," said Ms Devany.

Winter weather Dec 26th 2020
A woman takes a photo of flooding in Bedford (PA)

"At that point, we started to get really concerned. Because they said, go anywhere – you can go to Tier 2 if you need to.

"With the way things have been going, it was a bit of an eye-opener, because it has been all-consuming the last few weeks, going from Tier 2 to 3 to 4. With total lockdown and being so careful, and them turning up at the door and saying 'that doesn't matter now, get out'.

"It was at that point we knew we really needed to get out.

"We put the turkey in the oven and had turkey sandwiches at the hotel last night, but it really has been a panic."

After spending Friday night at the hotel, the family returned home when flood waters receded by a few inches.

One of their daughters is non-verbal autistic and struggled with the sudden move.

Winter weather Dec 26th 2020
Floodwater surrounds The Barn Hotel in Bedford (PA)

Ms Devany said: "She's not a big one for change, it really upset her, so if we can stay tonight, we are going to try. We will sleep in shifts and if it looks like it will breach the road at all, we will head back to the hotel.

"It's pretty bad out there and all of the fields are within half a foot of breaching back on to the road. We have literally come within a hair's breadth of it.

"We have been lucky – we are dry, we are safe, we have the heating on. There have been so many people out there who haven't been as lucky."

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