Two years on from Storm Dennis, Welsh businesses have rebuilt but people continue to live in fear

Storm Dennis wreaked havoc across Welsh communities Credit: PA

They are scenes that few people will forget: rivers overflowing, streets running deep with floodwater, homes and businesses left in ruin. 

Storm Dennis struck on the night of February 15, 2020, after heavy rainfall fell across Wales and the United Kingdom.

Scenes of elderly and vulnerable people being rescued by emergency services and images of communities cut off by rising water live in the memory of most, but for those who were directly impacted, the legacy endures through day-to-day life. 

In the early hours of the morning, at the confluence of the Dulais and Neath rivers, the village of Aburdulais bore the brunt of water rushing down from the valleys above.

Residents were flooded for the second time in 18 months after Storm Callum had wreaked havoc in the village in 2018.

“We didn’t get much warning at all,” said Joolz Stewart, a resident of Canal Side. 

“It was around two o’clock in the morning and the water started to come in. The river at the top of the street breached its banks and it was literally three feet high and coming through the letterboxes.”

Joolz took the decision to stay in her house despite the damage done. However, after saying she would never move away, she has now decided to start looking elsewhere. 

“It’s been really difficult, we are a fabulous community and I was one of the people who said I would never move, but unfortunately, we are in the same position, nothing has changed we are on a flood alert today. 

“The stress levels and anxiety every time it rains, especially this time of year. It’s not about the material things, it is about safety.”

The flooding came with little notice or warning Credit: PA

While residents in Aberdulais fled their homes, similar scenes played out across Wales.

In Pontypridd, the River Taf broke its banks and decimated businesses and homes, also causing equally shattering damage further along its path in Treforest and Nantgarw.

One person who was caught up in the devastation was Emma Jamal, who has since moved her shop to another location within Pontypridd.

Emma told ITV Wales: “I still have flashbacks, even [when I see] the weather today. 

“I don’t think I could have ever slept at night again if I had gone into Mill Street. I’m very glad we are in a different position in the town now, and that the risk of flooding is non-existent to us hopefully.”

Councillor Andrew Morgan, who led Rhondda Cynon Taf’s response to the flooding reflected on the unfolding events in a series of tweets. 

Cllr Morgan said: “Two years ago tonight was one the worst I’ve ever known, it was when Storm Dennis hit RCT.

“By 10pm that night I started receiving calls of local flooding, by midnight many parts of the county were being affected. In early hours it became clear a disaster was unfolding.

“One phone call I took in the early hours was that cars were being swept down the river Taff in Pontypridd - not knowing at that time if lives were being lost.”

Some businesses have bounced back strongly from the events of Storm Dennis, and the pandemic that followed just a few weeks later. 

Cefn Mably Farm Park on the outskirts of Cardiff was devastated by flooding and faced the prospect of never reopening, however they have now taken steps to ensure they are less prone to the same events happening gain. 

Rhys Edwards, who manages the business, told ITV Wales:  "We were rescuing animals from the floodwater and just over there we were looking at the flooded building and that was the time we decided it's [a large soft play area] got to come down.”

The park now boasts a new indoor centre with soft play for children as well as a cafe for their parents, all built at a higher elevation to protect it from the worst of the weather.

"If the flood comes we may have to put some animals up to higher ground but other than that the business assets and the stuff that costs the money and gets damaged is all safe and protected,” Rhys continued.

“Then we can open up the next day and everything's fine." 

While floodwaters may have subsided in communities most impacted two years ago, the risk of flooding remains, with each coming storm a moment of anxiety for many. 

On the anniversary of Storm Dennis, climate scientist Professor Tom Rippeth has warned that flooding is Wales' biggest threat as a result of climate change.

The physical oceanographer from Bangor University believes declining Arctic sea ice could be contributing towards more extreme Welsh weather events.

With storms Dudley and Eunice set to hit parts of Wales this week (February 16 to 18), communities living in flood risk areas will continue to keep their fingers crossed.