May 24 2013 Latest news:
Monday, August 20, 2012
A hundred years on, Derek James looks back at the floods that brought Norwich to its knees.
It had been a typical British summer of sunshine and showers. June and July of 1912 had been similar to June and July of 2012.
And August had been pretty dismal.
But people were unaware of the great storm gathering steam. One which would change lives forever.
Sunday, August 25, was fine, but then the barometer began to fall and by 4am the following day the rain had started.
At first, the men and women of Norwich took little notice of it as they went about their daily business.
It was raining. A steady, continuous downpour, although there was no thunder or lightning.
The rains continued during the morning and at the time they were more of a nuisance than anything else – especially for the housewives trying to get their washing dry on a Monday morning.
In those days, Norwich was a more compact city, with thousands of people living in what we would consider today to be appalling conditions.
The richer you were the higher you tended to live and those with little money survived in the many courts and yards by the water.
By midday on Monday, August 26, it became clear this was no ordinary storm. The winds increased and the rain resembled a driving snow blizzard – and it just kept on coming.
Some reports said rain was falling at the rate of an inch an hour as the people ran for cover. Roads turned into rivers – then houses, factories and bridges began to crumble under the sheer weight of water.
And there was no end in sight.
As the waters rose, the city was starting to sink.
People took cover in upstairs rooms as the rain and the wind continued. More than seven inches of rain fell on Norwich and the surrounding area.
The rivers burst their banks and the waters came.
The rains turned into a tropical deluge cutting Norwich off from the rest of the country and covering a 40-mile radius around the city.
Thousands of people, already as poor as church mice, had lost almost everything – others had lost their lives.
Records say that more than a million gallons of water fell on the city and county in a 24-hour period – twice the amount of water in Lake Windermere.
Yet it was a disaster which brought the rich and the poor closer together. It helped to unite a divided city.
The wealthy and the powerful turned into good samaritans and the bond between the public and the police/firemen, often strained, was strengthened.
Who were the heroes and heroines who risked their own lives to save others as the floods ripped the heart out of the city?