Boxing Day floods: six years on from when Storm Eva battered the boroughs of Greater Manchester

Some of those directly impacted by the devastating festive season flooding have looked back at that dreadful day and how life has changed since a Christmas that was memorable for the wrong reasons.

Boxing Day 2015 was part of a festive season which for many people in Greater Manchester will linger in the memory for all the wrong reasons.

The city-region experienced some of its worst flooding that year as Storm Eva battered its 10 boroughs.

Rivers reached record levels and some 2,200 homes were flooded across Greater Manchester, with tens of thousands of residents suffering disruption from power cuts and road closures.

Six years on, some of those who were directly impacted have been reflecting on the Christmas ruined by rising water.

Flooding in Broughton, Salford, after the River Irwell burst its banks on Boxing Day 2015

What happened on Boxing Day 2015?

When Storm Eva hit Greater Manchester the day after Christmas six years ago, prolonged rainfall came down on catchment areas that were already sodden from previous wet weather.

The downpours were long and intense. In parts of the upper Irwell catchment area north of the city centre, 128mm fell in 36 hours over Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

This fell onto already-soaked ground, as 2015 was the sixth-wettest year on record and December rainfall was twice the long-term average.

The result was rapidly rising river levels, with some waterways recording record highs more than a metre above where the water had reached previously.

A flood investigation report published the following September makes clear the impact of some of Greater Manchester’s worst-ever flooding.

Some 2,250 properties across eight local authorities as well as 500 businesses were flooded.

Seven electricity substations were damaged and 31,200 houses left without power.

Altogether the flooding caused some £11.5m in infrastructure damage.

Flood campaigner remembers the night the water came to her door

In Salford the River Irwell burst its banks and among the properties affected were 400 homes in the Lower Broughton and Kersal areas.

Six years on from that fateful night, flood campaigner and Salix Homes tenant Keri Muldoon has been reflecting on the nightmare which saw her home on Gordon Street in Lower Broughton devastated by flood water.

Keri Muldoon’s home in Salford was flooded and she is now a campaigner and activist

She recalls: “Thinking back now, it’s quite unbelievable what we all went through. When it happened, it felt like the end of the world.

“Christmas Day had been a bit wet, but nothing you’d really even think about. Then on Boxing Day morning I remember seeing the river and thinking ‘that looks really high’. But I didn’t know anything about flooding or river levels back then, so I would never have envisaged something like this could happen.”

Keri and her two children, who were aged five and 11 at the time, had been at her mum’s house in Higher Broughton when the floods struck.

“People had been trying to ring me all day, but my phone had died, so I had no idea that our estate had been flooded,” she said.

“I left my mum’s house at about 5pm and I saw a neighbour and he said ‘Keri – your house has been flooded’, but I just didn’t believe him.

Floodwater inside Keri Muldoon’s home

“I had to park up on Broughton Lane and walk to my house – the water was up to my waist. It was dark and noisy and muddy. It was like being in the river and the current was fast – it was scary.

“First, I just looked through the letterbox and everything was a foot under water – we’d lost everything – all the kids’ Christmas presents, everything destroyed.

“From that moment, we never even thought about Christmas again – Christmas was over.”

The water eventually receded in the early hours of the next morning and then a mammoth clean-up operation began.

What was the aftermath like for Keri and Salix Homes?

Almost 300 Salix Homes properties were flooded across the Spike Island and Riverside estates. Officers from the provider joined an army of volunteers and other agencies to support the clean-up and recovery operation over the following days, weeks and months.

Keri added: “It was the aftermath that was the worst part, but the next day there were hundreds of people on our estate helping with the clean-up and bringing donations.

“Despite everything we went through, there have been positives to come out of what happened. It’s brought our community together and we’re more connected than we’ve ever been because we’ve all been through the same thing and we have each other’s backs.”

Possessions ruined by the flooding piled up outside Keri Muldoon’s home

Since the floods, Keri has become a flooding expert and activist in her community. She’s now chair of the 1,500-member Broughton Flood Group, sharing flood alerts and information with the wider community, and also sits on Salford Council’s Flood Forum.

She added: “I’m a fighter against the floods now. I work closely with the Environment Agency and Salford Council and other groups and agencies. I’ve had to learn so much about flooding and river levels to try and keep the community safe. I’m always alert to it now and I’m constantly looking at the river – it does take over your life.”

Sue Sutton, chief executive at Salix Homes, added: “It’s hard to believe it’s been six years since the Boxing Day floods, which will go down in Salford’s history for the heartache and destruction it brought to hundreds of people in our city. I was there when the Irwell broke its banks and it was truly devastating.

“But amid all the distress and chaos, the Salford community came together in a way only Salfordians can and that will never be forgotten. It was awe-inspiring to see the community, local charities, organisations and businesses join forces to support the flood victims in their hour of need.

“We’ve worked really closely with the community since then, undertaking a huge repairs programme to the affected homes, providing support to residents and helping Keri, and other community heroes like her, continue with the amazing work they have been doing.”

What happened after the floods?

In the wake of the floods the Environment Agency, councils and United Utilities between them had to survey nearly 4,000 assets such as walls, embankments, culverts and river banks.

By autumn 2016, £2m had been spent on asset repair work.

In 2018 the Government gave £12m to a huge flood defence scheme, with £7m for Bury and Radcliffe and £5m to Rochdale and Littleborough. Hundreds of homes and businesses in Radcliffe and Redvales were affected by the Boxing Day deluge.

In total the scheme, which involved building a series of storage reservoirs, cost £46m.

Substantial flood defences have also been implemented in Salford, including the Environment Agency’s £10m Salford Flood Improvement Scheme.

That has seen the creation of a flood storage basin and wetlands area on the site of the old Manchester Racecourse in Kersal, which aims to protect 2,000 homes and businesses in Lower Broughton and Lower Kersal.

Keri says she’s confident that the measures in place will keep the community safe.

She added: “There are people who are still worrying about it happening again, especially with reports that we’re going to have a wet winter, but the wetlands is working as it should. We have had periods of intense rain since, so it must be doing its job.”