Storm Dennis one year on: Residents' fear flooding could return

Residents who saw their homes devastated by flooding after Storm Dennis have told ITV News they are "scared" they will be flooded again.

15 February 2021 marks a year to the day since the storm hit - leaving in its wake millions of pounds worth of damage to properties and businesses.

For many of these residents, things then went from bad to worse, as they faced trying to recover amid a global pandemic.

Families had to be rescued from some homes after they were flooded

In a once-in-a-century event, Storm Dennis brought the worst flooding to Wales in living memory.

Exceptional rainfall and river levels devastated communities, particularly across South Wales.

Communities in Rhondda Cynon Taf were amongst the worst impacted by the storm and in many other places too, across the South Wales Valleys and along the Usk and Wye Valleys too. 

The torrential weather followed Storm Ciara a week before, which left ground saturated and rivers running high across Wales.

Many rivers reached record levels, properties were flooded and in some communities, people were evacuated from their homes. 

A month's rainfall fell in just one day

Some places saw more than a month's rainfall fall in just one day.

The impacts were significant - on people, property, businesses and livelihoods. 

At the time, NRW said many of these communities would "be affected for months to come".

During the peak of Storm Dennis which happened overnight on Saturday into Sunday, 61 Flood Alerts, 89 Flood Warnings and two Severe Flood Warnings were in force. 

It was more warnings for rivers than had ever been issued at any one time in Wales.

At the peak of the flood in Pontypridd, Natural Resources Wales estimated that 900 tonnes of water per second was flowing down the River Taff; that would fill an Olympic sized swimming pool in three seconds.

This was the scene on Pontypridd High Street following the storm

On Sion Street in Pontypridd, no house escaped.

"It took us until September to get the house back to where it was", resident Stuart Glennie said.

"That is seven months. It just took so long to get the kitchen, because they weren't making anything."

Stuart said a lot of his neighbours are worried they could be flooded again

He said people are worried flooding will happen again, with many now left without insurance.

"It's their livelihoods, their homes, and they are in a lot of fear of it."

In Crickhowell, the River Usk reached record levels.

And when the mud and slit receded, it wasn't forgotten quickly as the imprint of the flood still exists on some homes.

The imprint of the flood can still be seen in Crickhowell

Taff Street in Pontypridd suffered badly.

ITV News filmed with some businesses that had lost everything.

Shop owner Emma Jamal said the community of Pontypridd rallied together to get people back on their feet again.

Business owner Emma Jamal said it took months to recover

"It was a hard few months, especially then going straight into Covid, because everything was on hold.

"So even the clean-up and everything after the floods took months and months and months. But the businesses in the town - there's so many independents here - and we all clubbed together and worked really hard as a town to try and get Pontypridd back on its feet." 

Emma and her husband have now restocked their shop and moved to a new premises further up town.

A review into the response to the storm at the end of last year found increased pressure on staff operating its flood warning service hampered its ability to issue alerts to residents.

A review found flood warnings were issued in a timely manner

It said Welsh Government-sponsored body Natural Resources Wales, which issues and manages flood forecasts, found its operations had been "stretched" which hampered its ability to react to "rapidly escalating and unforeseen events on the ground".

It also found 12 flood warnings were not issued when they should have been, and six were issued late.

Michael Evans, Head of Operations at NRW, said it is improved its flood warning service so warnings can be issued quicker.

"We've built our resilience into the team so that we can get teams working 24/7 so that we get our flood warnings out in a timely manner."

"The real issue is with increasing climate change, the flooding risk isn't going to diminish so we are going to see wetter winters, more intense storms and more properties are going to be at risk of flooding".

NRW encourages people to be prepared for an event like this again.

"These events show that, even if flooding hasn’t happened recently or maybe in living memory, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t."

It advises people to check whether they live in a flood risk area and to register for its free flood warnings.