Ok so there’s been a fair bit of rain over the last few days and there is some bad flooding. The river levels are well above what is ‘normal’ and it’s still a bit damp outside however; despite what you are lead to believe, things aren’t always what they appear to be in the news reports…
Yesterday morning we received telephone calls and text messages from concerned friends and family. They were exceedingly worried about our wellbeing after hearing and seeing the news. They were worried that we might be confined to the top floor of our house, clutching all our worldly goods and shackles whilst the ground floor was awash with detritus and all manner of smelly floating things.
Their perception was that Northallerton had suffered a never-ending deluge of biblical proportions indeed, many had expected to see Noah and his Ark on the news footage. All this hysteria was once again thanks to our usually emotive and often less than accurate media machine. Who said “don’t let facts get in the way of a good story?”
Yes it’s still raining (periodically), yes there was still a modicum of localised flooding this morning but in reality, most of it was little more than ankle-deep and yes, there are some roads in the area that are difficult/dangerous/closed. But trust me, the likelihood of Northallerton becoming the suburb of a modern-day Atlantis is about as likely as the myth itself. Even our pub darts team arrived safely at a nearby local venue on Monday night for their match, a venue that was in the area with the worst flooding and at the peak of the deluge… Canoes were not required.
I can however understand the concern of our friends and family, after all; if a sleepy North country enclave like Northallerton can make national news, conditions must have been horrendous, mustn’t they? No, the subsidence of the flooding was almost as quick as the media response to it. But despite being partly defeated by mother nature, in roles the media circus. The need for a ‘new angle’ with ‘new footage’ from a ‘new area’ had to go ahead, if only to get away from any suggestions they were performing in the style of some commercial 24/7 cable news show.
Several local observers to the events were slightly agog, me included. Some were suggesting that there were more outside broadcast units and media staff in the town than there were emergency services and local authority resources. Another (allegedly) saw a TV vehicle being continuously driving back and forth in close proximity to a camera crew; the intention being to create a suitable bow-wave that would portray ‘flood water’ lapping at the feet of their roving reporter.
I have to say I’m not one to revel in the misfortunes of others but I nearly wet myself whilst watching and laughing out loud at one piece of ‘news’ coverage. Picture the scene; camera zooms in onto little grey haired and frail elderly lady who is mopping up mud and water in her kitchen.
The voiceover to the piece is commentating on the “desperate plight of the elderly” and explaining about the “new levels of extreme danger” they face. Local residents have been living in “constant fear” in a “wholly desperate situation” apparently. Cut to roving ‘live’ reporter who steps into frame and stuffs a microphone under the nose of our sweet little old lady.
The reporter asks; “how are you coping with such a dreadful situation?” Our little old dear, still mopping furiously pauses, as if for a moment of reflection and then replies; “It’s a bloody nuisance pet, but it’s happened before and it’ll probably happen again but then again, there’s only a bit more water than when’t’ washer bust.” Our stoic old bird pauses again and reflects… “Worst of it is me kettle’s buggered!”
Absolute class! 🙂
The news hound was gobsmaked, you could almost see the colour drain from her face as she tried to comprehend the apparent lack of emotion… No weeping and wailing or suggesting her world had come to an end but why not? I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with living through a World War? Or perhaps it was just the fact she was actually on TV? Either way the ear-to-ear smile she displayed was heartening.
Earlier in the day apparently, the lady had actually been “plucked from the jaws of death” as the (already receding) flood “threatened a watery grave” but she was resilient, after all; “it’s not every day someone my age gets grabbed by a fireman” she retorted with a twinkle in her eye!
Whether the event was a genuine rescue or one that was staged for the TV cameras matters not, it does illustrate the issue and supports my observations.
But on a more serious level – flooding can and does cause physical and mental trauma to many, and let’s not forget the massive financial impacts of the aftermath.
The momentous floods of 2007 tended to prove all this but also because of that, much has since been done to mitigate against risks of flooding in the future. Significant public and private sector cash has been invested, all aimed at protecting people from the flood waters of the future (see here). That probably doesn’t make things much easier for many, especially those who live in the five-and-a-half million properties still at risk from flooding in the future (see here), but at least it’s something.
That said, I would still prefer for our media to simply report fact, as opposed to all the usual engineering of public opinion and emotion. Manipulation designed to capitalise upon how many view disaster and the trauma of others.
In general, humans have a tendency towards a ghoulish interest in the suffering of others but also, for some warped reason that I’ve never really understood, they also often feel let down when the actual ‘suffering’ doesn’t match up to their original expectations. For that reason I feel sure the media coverage of the flooding, contrived or otherwise, will continue for a few days yet.
But don’t worry, when the floods have subsided the wet stuff will turn to white stuff and you shouldn’t have long to wait for the next exciting installment of We’re all doomed. We’re getting ready for winter in the UK, a season where the “Whole country is entombed in snow” (or at least a few inches fell somewhere south of Leeds). Who knows, when the “nation grinds to halt in a big winter freeze” this year, perhaps the snow ploughs and gritters will be capable of removing a light dusting from the M25?
Whether we actually get a grip this winter remains to be seen? Stay tuned for comment… 😉
Useful Flooding Resources
- BBC UK floods: How can you protect your home or business?
- Environment Agency – Flooding
- Environment Agency – Flood Warning Service
- Met Office – Weather Warnings
- Health Protection Agency – Health risks in flooding
- VIDEO: Flood risk for Yorkshire hospital (bbc.co.uk)
- Serious flooding risk in north-east England, weather forecasters say – @BBCNews (bbc.co.uk)
- Flood threat stays as rain eases (bbc.co.uk)
- Nearly 100,000 people warned of flooding as icy weather on the way (telegraph.co.uk)
- Severe flooding ‘could become commonplace’ by end of this century (itv.com)