'We were battling to stop it coming through the front door' - Christmas flooding one year on

South Norfolk flooding 

Alison Thomas' house during the South Norfolk flooding - Credit: Alison Thomas

One year on from the devastating floods that swept across Norfolk last Christmas Eve, one woman has described her family's dramatic ordeal that night.

Alison Thomas lives in Long Stratton, one of the areas worst hit when heavy rain caused flash flooding in many parts of the region, forcing people out of their homes and causing festive plans to be hastily abandoned.

Mrs Thomas' property was so badly damaged that she was unable to return for almost nine months, while others have faced even longer delays to get back into their homes.

She said that last Christmas Eve she and her family had been out when the flooding started and were unaware of the problems.

Alison Thomas' house during the flooding

Alison Thomas' house during the flooding - Credit: Supplied

"We were out for my daughter's 21st birthday, she had just come back from studying at university," Mrs Thomas said.

"When we came back there was a lot of water coming up to the house. We were straight into wellies. We were trying to fight it off, battling to stop it coming into the house through the front door.

"When I went inside I realised it was already coming up through the floor. It became an issue of trying to save as much as we could."

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Mrs Thomas, who is a county and district councillor, then called friends for help to try to move as many items as possible upstairs.

Ultimately the water rose to the windowsills. It was the first time the house had flooded since 1968.

Unfortunately, Mrs Thomas said the family photo albums were forgotten in the rush and she has not felt able to look through them yet to see how damaged they are.

Alison Thomas, Conservative county councillor for Long Stratton. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Alison Thomas, Conservative county councillor for Long Stratton. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives. - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

Mrs Thomas and her family were forced from their home for almost nine months while repairs were carried out.

But she said others have had it worse, with removal vans still in the town centre up to November, emptying houses damaged by flooding.

A year on, Mrs Thomas said it was odd putting up Christmas decorations when they did not stay up for long last time.

Now the family is having to get used to the change, she said: "My daughter came back in December for my birthday and she said she didn't recognise it as home.

"The floor was ripped up, skirting boards and wood panelling on the walls had to be replaced.

"My daughter was born here so it was quite a shock to her.

"It's just a bit weird. It's our home but it's new as well. It is what it is, I'm just grateful that we are home."

Christmas tree under the water during the Long Stratton flooding

Christmas tree under the water during the Long Stratton flooding - Credit: Alison Thomas

But she said others have had it worse, with removal vans still in the town centre up to November, emptying houses damaged by flooding.

Over the last year, Mrs Thomas said she had channelled a lot of energy into trying to make sure no one else was affected by flooding in Long Stratton in the future, raising the issue at every council meeting she can.

The most important thing for Mrs Thomas was ensuring that drainage ditches were kept clean.

"We can’t stop it from raining. We can’t help that it rained through November to December.

"We can encourage and if necessary, use enforcement to get landowners to prepare watercourses on their land.

She welcomed an ongoing flooding review by Lord Dannant and the Norfolk Strategic Flooding Alliance, a group made up of councils, Anglian Water and drainage boards.

The group has carried out simulated flooding events to assess their readiness for the future.

Mrs Thomas hoped her experience would mean issues in Long Stratton would be fixed to ensure something like this does not happen again.

"We are telling landowners this needs to be fixed now while the sun is shining," she said.

"If there was another flood like last year I don’t think insurance companies will be happy about paying out again and I could imagine some of them would take legal action.

"It’s not always the people who own the land or the ditches that suffer - it is often someone else further downstream, someone you probably don't even know."

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