Floods Special: Bertha’s tail puts £45m of work through an ultimate test

Landshut Bridge: held firm (Chris Milne)

It may only have been the tail end of Hurricane Bertha – but Moray took the sting of devastation left in its wake.

A night of torrential rain driven by high winds was followed by a day of heartbreak for many homes and businesses in the region – and but for the region’s new flood alleviation systems it could have been far worse.

That was the view being expressed by leading politicians after a day in which engineers responsible for the creation of a well over £130million investment looked on anxiously as water in the River Lossie and River Findhorn rose to the very brink of disaster.

In Forres the recently completed £45million flood scheme was declared a success – but only after several communities were put on standby for evacuation with the Mosset Burn threatening to burst its banks.

Local homes and buildings did not escape damage with the Forres Health Centre one of several that suffered roof damage from the deluge. Stewart Noble, the recently elected chairman of the Forres Community Council admitted that it was a close call.

He said: “It was a very close run thing – I have never seen the River Findhorn the way it was as it looked like a brown torrent.

“But by and large the anti-flood works around the town seem to have done their job relatively well, although we are certainly not out of the woods yet.”

While Met Officers said that Lossiemouth bore the brunt of the downpour the town was relatively unharmed although there was minor damage to the town’s community centre and several other buildings while the RAF base also suffered from flooding.

It was, however, Elgin where much of the drama of the day was unfolding, as the storm put the partly finished £86million flood alleviation scheme to the test.

The River Lossie was a raging torrent in places but while breached in several places again the expert view was that those defences already in place played their part in reducing the impact – although it was bad enough.

Around 200 homes were evacuated on Monday afternoon as under-pressure Moray Council officers sought to protect residents as the rain continued to fall and the water level rose.

Elgin High School was the home for around 50 families while others found accommodation with friends or relatives. Council Leader Allan Wright said that despite the damage that was caused to many homes, businesses and community facilities it could have been far worse.

He said: “The flood scheme is undoubtedly helping and providing protection to homes that are under threat.

“But the scheme is not yet complete and will not be until May – therefore there are gaps. Council staff have been out since 3am and have been doing everything in their power to help.

“The evacuation was a precautionary measure – it is much easier for people to walk out of their homes that it is to have to take them later by boat.”

Councillor Wright added that their had been a “remarkable” amount of rainfall over the region in just 24 hours, but with the forecast better for the remainder of the week it is hoped that the water levels will fall.

He added: “What can be said for certain is that without the flood defences that have been finished many homes would have flooded.

“We would not have been evacuating people from their homes as a precaution, it would have been a necessity.”

Leave a comment