As flooding hit Oxford this month, hundreds worked round the clock to hold back the waters and keep residents safe, writes BEN WILKINSON.
We asked for your ‘Flood Heroes’ and today tell the stories of some of those who worked long hours to protect us and keep the city going
HATTON AND HIS TEAM
AS BOTLEY Road shut, council workers worked around the clock to try to stop flood waters getting inside homes.
Oxford City Council highways and engineering manager Shaun Hatton spent a week supervising a team of up to 20 workers based in Bullstake Close, West Oxford.
Susanna Pressel, a city councillor for Jericho and Osney, put forward Mr Hatton and his team as Flood Heroes.
She said: “He didn’t sleep for five days. Whenever I went there, he was there. I tried to tell him to go home to bed.
“He saved Bullstake Close from flooding. He is just so conscientious and hard-working.”
Mr Hatton said his team worked day and night with staff working 12-hour shifts for more than a week in a bid to keep the water levels down.
He said: “We erected the barriers to the rear of Bullstake Close. We installed thousands of sandbags and we helped to make sure we kept the properties clear of water.”
He added: “It was a great team effort and it worked very well with the residents and the public. There were a lot of positive comments from the public. There was a great team spirit to deliver the right outcome. There were 20 people involved, totally committed to delivering the right outcome to make sure water didn’t go into the properties.
“They worked extremely hard and were very dedicated to the cause.”
JOHN AND CHRIS MASTRODDI KENNINGTON
Flood Heroes John and Chris Mastroddi installed a ramp for their 90-year-old neighbour Rita Pattinson as the flood waters surrounded her home.
Mr Mastroddi, a builder and member of Oxford Flood Alliance, said it was important those who knew what to expect with flooding helped those vulnerable to rising waters.
The Kennington Road resident, 64, said: “I have been involved in flooding in the Kennington area since back in 2000. We are aware of what happens when we have the flooding and what to look out for.”
John Mastroddi, 64, helps his neighbour, Rita Pattinson, 90, across the duckboard bridge he made for her
He said the ramp to widow Mrs Pattinson’s home allowed the pensioner and nurses to get to and from the house without needing to even put wellies on.
He said: “It does make her a bit isolated so when we experience the floods we know what to do.”
And Mr Mastroddi added: “Everybody joins together to help each other in situations like that. You just keep an eye on people who are a little bit vulnerable.
“If you have a bit more experience and knowledge with the area you can anticipate problems coming and anticipate how to deal with it.”
OXFORDSHIRE FIRE & RESCUE SERVICE
FIREFIGHTERS worked tirelessly to help flood-hit residents.
Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service operations commander Nigel Wilson said between January 4-12, the service received 218 calls, 60 of which were flooding related.
Firefighters put themselves forward to work extra shifts, he said, adding: “They worked extremely hard. The biggest thing for me was it showed the true spirit of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue.”
He said the service rescued 11 people whose cars had become stranded in water – including one with children in.
Red Watch with water rescue equipment – from left, Mick Dunn, Paul Carroll and Owen Pates with watch manager Gary Crone and crew manager Mark Oddi
The service also helped to evacuate about 20 residents from Thameside Court in Bablockhythe, near Cumnor.
Mr Wilson added: “From a fire and rescue service point of view it certainly brought out the best in the fire service and they stepped up.
“It was absolutely brilliant. Everybody stepped up and we achieved the objective of helping as much as we could.”
But the top firefighter said Oxford was becoming better prepared and more resilient to flooding.
POSTMAN MIKE NOTTAGE
DESPITE major roads being shut off to traffic, the post kept coming to houses surrounded by water.
Oxford Mail reader Rachel Hastie nominated postman Mike Nottage, pictured, as a Flood Hero for keeping up with his rounds in the Abingdon Road/South Oxford area.
She said: “Mike’s been our postman for years, and when given the choice to work or not during the floods, he just put on his wellies and waterproofs and kept going, even when wading through knee-high water.
“With the main road closed, we were suddenly cut off from the world, and terribly worried about how fast the water was rising.
“Seeing Mike doing his rounds, unfazed by the crisis, gave us all that important sense of normality in an abnormal situation, and a bit of the ‘Blitz spirit’ too.”
Another reader said: “The postie that serves Lincoln Road/Abingdon Road made deliveries all through the floods even though it meant trudging through the flood waters on Abingdon Road.”
THOSE TACKLING ABINGDON ROAD
OXFORD University English literature lecturer Emma Smith, of Vicarage Road, praised the Environment Agency and council teams that battled the flood waters in and around Abingdon Road.
The 43-year-old said: “They were here 24 hours a day giving information and putting flood barriers up.
“They were working really hard to stop it from flooding.
“I thought they were all great.”
PUPINDER SINGH GATORA
WEST Oxford pharmacist Pupinder Singh Ghatora was nominated for running the Woodlands Pharmacy in Botley Road during the floods.
Prof David Weatherall said: “Despite this extremely difficult situation the pharmacy somehow managed to continue to deliver vital medicines to the homes of a wide variety of patients throughout this extremely difficult period.
“This remarkable service was of particular value to old patients in the Oxford community who would have found it impossible to obtain their vital medicines any other way.”
Environment Agency (EA) spokesman Ash Dobson said staff worked hard to defend Oxfordshire against the floods.
It put its staff on standby every day and night including on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and over New Year.
He said work done by EA workers included everything from setting up flood defences to recording data about rising water levels.
Environment Agency staff in Duke Street. From left, Tony Cross, Tony Pink and Geoff Fuller
He added: “As a result, the majority of our local staff have worked in some way to support our incident response.
“The names of those who have worked tirelessly throughout the duration of this incident are too many to list, but we are incredibly grateful to them, and everyone else who has been involved in responding to the flooding.”
DUKE Street resident Mary Timbrell was also named a Flood Hero for her work as the road’s flood warden.
Mrs Timbrell, 76, sends warning letters out to every home in the West Oxford street when flooding is a possibility.
She said: “My main job as flood warden is to get all the residents signed up to the Environment Agency’s automated flood alerts system.
“If flooding is expected, I post a letter through everyone’s door and include a list of steps they can take to protect their homes.
“People seem to appreciate being kept up-to-date.”
The retired administration assistant said flooding always brought the community closer together.
She said neighbours had offered to pick up prescriptions for the elderly and volunteered to go shopping for supplies.
She said “Every time there is flooding I think we learn a little bit more about how to work together. It was a question of everybody pulling together.”
But she said: “Our real hero is the Environment Agency. They installed a heavy duty pump in Duke Street and kept it running 24 hours a day.”
Susanna Pressel nominated Mrs Timbrell and other West Oxford residents “for being cheerful and resourceful throughout this difficult time and for helping their neighbours with wonderful community spirit”.
CHARLIE GEE & NICK HILLS
FARMER Charlie Gee, of Medley Manor Farm in Binsey, has been hailed a Flood Hero as he used his tractor to rescue three cars from flood water in Binsey Lane.
The 50-year-old said: “Everybody was willing to put themselves out to help people.”
Nominator Susanna Pressel said: “He went and towed the cars away where the owners wanted them to go. If he hadn’t done that then emergency vehicles wouldn’t have been able to go along Binsey Lane.”
Earl Street resident Nick Hills, of the Oxford Flood Alliance, was also praised by Mrs Pressel.
She said: “He was always walking up and down Earl Street and Botley Road and always advising people.
“He got the council to put up a barrier by Earl Street. He was so good, kind and calm.”