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The British weather is a constant topic of conversation.
Often unpredictable, it's now having an even bigger effect on our lives.
Dangerous floods threaten our homes.
Forest fires devastate our countryside
and savage storms ravage our coastlines.
Today, we find out what happens to Britain when freak weather hits.
We see stories of people's lives who have been turned upside down.
And we show you how to protect yourself, your home and your family from disaster.
Welcome to Living Dangerously.
We've all seen reports of tornadoes, flooding and storms,
but how do they impact on people's lives?
Today, we hear two incredible stories.
Coming up on Living Dangerously:
A flash flood brings destruction to a quiet Shropshire town.
The first we heard about the house collapsing was really by a friend,
and she was crying, and she was in a terrible state.
It took me quite a few minutes to get out of her what was the matter.
All she kept saying was, "It's gone, it's gone."
And an electrical storm delivers a terrifying strike to two young teens.
I had burns to my body.
I had a perforated eardrum,
and I had some damage to my eye,
and my burns were all black where there was melted plastic
and all red and bloody kind of thing.
With home video, actual footage and reconstruction,
we show what happened during these real-life weather events.
The tranquil, historic market town of Ludlow lies within a bend
of the picturesque River Teme in Shropshire.
With its charming medieval architecture
and masses of unspoiled countryside,
it's been home to Sol and Doreen Pearce for most of their lives.
Born in Ludlow 71 years ago, married in Ludlow,
had the children in Ludlow, so that's about my life, really.
Sol and Doreen met over 50 years ago
whilst Sol was on leave from the army.
Shortly after they got married, they moved into their dream home -
a riverside cottage next to the town's picturesque Burway Bridge
where they settled down to quiet life.
We don't get involved in anything much, but it's nice for shopping, going for a walk round.
Just ordinary town people, really, I suppose, just doing ordinary things.
Their home provided a perfect nest for rearing their family
and an idyllic dwelling for their retirement.
For over 41 years, Sol and Doreen lived on this tranquil road
by the River Corve without incident, but in June 2007
they were to experience such extreme weather that it would change the way they lived for ever.
Flash floods hit the pretty town of Ludlow with such force
that it would gain world attention and cost Sol and Doreen their house.
I'm here to meet them and find out what happened on that fateful day.
Oh, yes, hi, Sol. Nice to meet you.
I just want to take you back a bit
to when you first moved into your house right on the River Corve.
Now, that was 41 years ago, yeah?
-We spent quite a lot of time and money in those days doing the cottage up
-because it had been closed.
And you know, it took us about three years, and then we moved in.
Had you had your eye on it for a while before you bought it?
Well, no, we didn't. It belonged to Doreen's mother anyway.
The house once stood at the edge of this site right next to the river.
She said to me - her words were - which is quite appropriate now -
she said, "I can't afford to do anything to it.
"If you want to do something to it, you can, or it can fall in the river."
With so much family history, this seemed like the perfect area
to bring up their three children.
And your grandchildren, I suppose, would have spent time growing up there as well.
Well, yes. The grandsons came a lot.
Oh, yeah. We took them out.
They always used to enjoy it cos you could feed the ducks
and all things like that - watch the sheep in the field, you know?
Sounds like a beautiful spot.
It was always pleasant, yeah, a very, very pleasant spot.
Sol spent a lot of time maintaining their family home
and fighting off damage caused by the river.
Well, the house wall was the river wall.
Every year, I used to get in the river, possibly three or four times, with my wellingtons on,
and if there was any mortar out of the bricks or the stones or anything, I used to put some more in.
When it did flood, it would come up very quick and go over the field,
you'd go to bed at night, and a lot of the field would be underwater.
Get up the next morning, and it had all gone.
We'd never seen the river bank out of sight - well, I never had.
We never had water in the yard at all.
Their garden was protected by an eight-foot wall, and the river water
had never risen any higher than six foot.
But nothing would protect the family home from what the weather had in store.
Back in 2007, Britain experienced one of the wettest summers
since records began, and on Monday, the 25th of June,
the weather in Ludlow took an unusual turn.
Things went terribly wrong on this lovely spot by the river.
Tell me about it, Doreen.
Well, it started raining quite early on the Monday morning, and it didn't stop.
It just kept raining and raining and raining all day,
and the river kept getting higher and higher,
which we had been used to the river getting high,
cos it always went across the field.
So there'd been floods there before?
Oh, often the river would come up, but nothing to that extent.
Sol and Doreen's grandson, Edd, lives just one mile away
and had also experienced two days of heavy rain.
However, just after lunchtime on Monday,
he noticed a significant change in the weather.
It was pretty persistent rain for a few days,
and then I think it was a Monday that it really did come down
in sheets of rain, so the ground was saturated anyway.
It couldn't carry anymore, and it just... It had to go somewhere, so...
It was now early evening, and the rain continued to fall.
The river kept on rising and rising.
Becoming increasingly worried,
Sol and Doreen decided to call on their grandson Edd for help.
It was about 8.30pm, 8.00pm, I suppose,
we got a call off my nan asking if my brother and my dad and myself
could go and help them move a bit of stuff from downstairs just upstairs
cos they were a bit worried that the water was going to start coming in.
Ed got in the car with his brother and father
and set off to help Sol and Doreen.
But the storm continued, and the rain didn't subside.
In just 12 hours, 35 millimetres of rain fell over Ludlow,
and at 9.00pm that evening, the river finally burst its banks.
For residents of Lower Corve Street,
being situated by the river would have more serious implications.
We knew that it was flooding... like the field was underwater,
had been a lot of the day, and then I went into the sitting room
to Doreen and was talking there for a few minutes and I came back,
and I said, "We'd better do something quick." I said, "The river bank's out of sight."
Sol and Doreen were in danger of being trapped in their own home,
and that home was right by the surging river.
Ed was fighting his way through the floods to help Sol and Doreen,
but as he drove to their house with his brother and father,
the water levels were rising rapidly.
At this point, there must have been a fair amount of panic setting in, Doreen?
-Were you frightened at this point?
-Well, we knew we could...
We'd be able to get out up the yard, but by the time they did come,
the water was coming over the wall at the back, so it was just like a weir.
Floodwater had started coming over the eight-foot back wall
to Sol and Doreen's house, and it had begun to engulf
their riverside garden, making it part of the River Corve itself.
Fear and panic had taken over Ludlow's 10,000 residents.
People living near the river began fleeing
as the flood began taking over their houses.
Local police officer John Ralph recalls the pandemonium.
The flooding started off in people's back gardens more than anything.
The ground itself was saturated,
but people who were living close to the river, obviously,
the water advanced over their gardens, which were water-logged,
and there were several houses where the downstairs was flooded.
The deepest water that I witnessed was Lower Corve Street.
In a state of high alert, the emergency services began an intense rescue operation.
Our prime directive is life and limb, and that's the reason
that myself and my colleague got involved and entered the water.
Fortunately, we were equipped - I was equipped and trained to do so,
but my initial thought was, secure people's property,
make sure that people that needed to be evacuated were evacuated.
In the lower lying areas that weren't too badly flooded,
it was a case of going door to door and making a note of people
who could evacuate themselves, and the old and the infirm who perhaps couldn't,
so that we had a short list of people, should it get worse, that we could immediately evacuate.
The river was cascading through the town and picking up anything in its path.
Meanwhile, Sol and Doreen were in their house waiting anxiously
for their son and grandsons to help them save what they could.
What was that like to see after so many years living there and never seeing anything?
Well, we were just trying to tear around to move a little bit of stuff as quick as we could,
-but I mean, it was coming up about a foot, in about five minutes.
-Five or ten minutes, like, yeah.
It was rising so quickly, it was unbelievable.
You just couldn't believe the sheer volume.
Things were starting to go down the river from further up,
gas cylinders and oh, all sorts of things going down by the window,
just bobbing along.
Coming up later on Living Dangerously:
the terrible flash floods in Ludlow continue to wreak havoc...
..and the water wears away at the very foundations
of Sol and Doreen's house with horrifying consequences.
We couldn't believe it when we saw how much it had gone, really.
-It all went out, all the side, everything - floating around like a boat.
The town of Raleigh lies 30 miles east of London in the County of Essex.
It's home to 14-year-old sweethearts Sophie Frost and Mason Billington.
They met at a local comprehensive school
and have been inseparable ever since.
We'd been seeing each other for about a month and a week. I really like Sophie.
He's a very lovely person, very nice to have met him.
On Monday, June 15th, 2009, the weather forecast predicted
bright spells with scattered heavy, thundery showers,
but since the predicted rain hadn't arrived at 4.00pm,
Sophie and Mason finished school
and decided to spend the rest of the afternoon hanging out with friends.
Yeah, we was at the skate park
and was mainly playing at the actual park kind of thing,
and it was quite nice, the weather.
But what they didn't realise was that throughout the day
extreme weather conditions had been building.
Hot air from the Mediterranean clashed with cold air coming over from the Atlantic.
This led to dangerous thunder clouds forming over the Essex area, and just before 6.00pm,
Sophie and Mason noticed a change in the weather as it began to rain.
When the weather started getting bad, our two friends left.
Like, we started on our way home.
It started really raining.
We noticed that the sky was going... It was more cloudy.
We were going to head home, but it started to get more rainy,
and we didn't think it was going to get much worse, but then it did.
The heavens opened on the small town of Raleigh.
Across town, local resident Janet Cooper was on her way home from work
and had also been caught in a torrential downpour.
The weather had started off fine. It was a lovely day,
but on my way home, the rain was coming down horrendous.
It was a really awful storm.
It was torrential rain. I mean, everybody was driving really slow.
It wasn't nice to be in.
Back the skate park, Sophie and Mason were all alone
as they decided to wait for the rain to pass, but at 6.30pm,
the torrential downpour turned into a frightening thunderstorm.
We were just kind of sitting there just like being kind of amazed by the sky.
We were just sitting there going, "Look at the sky. It's so weird."
It was all green, and it was really weird.
The rain came down really fast, and then we started getting bolts of lightning,
but it was quite distant, so I didn't really think too much of it.
Realising that they weren't going to escape this electrical storm,
Sophie and Mason took a decision
which would have very serious consequences.
Well, the weather was becoming more of a downpour,
so we went under a tree.
At the time, it did look like the thing to do
because, you know, it was raining.
It's kind of your natural instinct to go under a tree, and shield from the rain.
But all they could do was watch in horror as the lightning struck out all around them.
We were just under there for about five minutes - five, ten minutes,
when, like, there was thunder going on and lightning striking everywhere.
It was just under the tree, really, was just hugging kind of thing, and then it's all gone blank for me.
The tree they were sheltering under was struck by lightning.
Travelling at 14,000mph
with a temperature of 30,000 degrees centigrade,
it's thought the lightning bolt hit the tree
and literally jumped across to Sophie and then passed on to Mason,
sending 300,000 volts of electricity down their bodies
as they held on to each other.
It kind of hit me so fast kind of thing. I was just a bit confused.
I felt like I was kind of dreaming cos I couldn't feel my body, really.
All I can remember is, like, feeling like numb, like I just couldn't think of what was happening.
It was just like - just like being knocked down and having the wind completely knocked out of you.
The couple were lucky to be alive, but they were suffering from burns and paralysed with shock.
What was worse - no-one had witnessed the terrifying event to call out an ambulance.
The storm showed no signs of abating, and Mason and Sophie
were still at major risk of another lightning strike.
We was both, like, laying on the floor. I came around first, and she weren't talking,
like, shortly after, just like tried to ring an ambulance, on both of the phones.
I could get through, but I weren't really sure what was going on,
so I just gave up with that and just kept talking to Sophie.
She had no idea what was going on, though.
I'm not really responding, but then I start to get it together.
Apparently, I woke up a bit, and I started screaming out,
"Mason, where's my shoe? I can't find my shoe!"
Cos it had, like, flown across the field.
I picked her up a couple of times. She just fell over straight away,
like, after I let go of her, so I just put her arm around me.
In fact, Sophie's shoe had been blown off because the moisture on her skin,
whether rain or sweat, was turned into steam by the intense heat of the lightning bolt,
and like a pressure cooker, the steam blew her shoe right off.
Standing under a tree was the worst place the couple could have chosen to shelter
from the storm as Stephen Lewis from The Open University's Physics and Astronomy Department explains.
If you are in an open area when lightning occurs, lightning will tend
to strike the tallest object within that area
because charge will tend to accumulate on small, sharp points.
In the case of people outside, if they're near a tree, they're far more likely to be hit,
or at least the tree next to them will be hit,
and the lightning will find it easier to reach the earth through a tree
or through somebody's body than it would through air itself.
The best thing to do if you get caught up in an electrical storm is to go inside a large building,
or, if you're in the middle of nowhere, head for lower ground
and stay away from tall, isolated objects like trees.
A few minutes later, having made their way back through the skate park,
Mason and Sophie staggered towards the main road to try and find help.
Luckily, Janet Cooper was driving past at just the right time.
They attracted my attention by... Well, the fact that they were in the middle of the road,
and they were just staggering around, and I just didn't think that looked right,
and you could see Mason's eyes, that he was closing them, and he couldn't see where he was going.
She goes, "Are you all right?" I go, "I think we've been struck by lightning."
And she was just like, "Oh, my God," straight away helped us into the car.
You can see from Sophie's clothes that there wasn't something right.
Her top was melted, and her trousers were all shredded
up to her knees, so, you know, it wasn't two kids drunk in the park.
It was more serious than that.
I was just - more and more of it was confusion in my head.
I really couldn't think what was happening
because I thought, you know, I should still be at skate park.
It was kind of like going from one scene to another in a second.
It was quite scary.
I sort of said to them, "Have you phoned for an ambulance?"
And Mason said, no, his phone wasn't working. Sophie's had got caught by the lightning,
so I said to them, "Get in the car, and I'll take you to the hospital."
Coming up later on Living Dangerously:
As Janet races to hospital, Sophie makes a grim discovery.
I couldn't feel pain on my body,
but I could feel something running across my stomach.
That was my iPod leads. My wire was stuck to my skin.
I pulled it out. I couldn't feel it,
but it was just like... Ew...a bit disgusting.
And Mason finds out that this strike could have devastating consequences to his health.
They said I had... burns to the cornea of my eye.
Back to our story in Shropshire where terrible floods were sweeping
through the town of Ludlow and engulfing everything in their path.
Streets and houses were deep in water,
roads cut off and hundreds of people were stranded,
including Sol and Doreen Pearce,
who lived in a cottage inches away from the swollen River Corve.
The water had got so high that it was coming over their eight foot back wall and flooding their garden,
and within minutes, it had begun to take over their porch and seep into their kitchen.
The elderly couple were trying desperately to salvage anything they could by taking it upstairs.
Were you in awe of the power of nature?
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Just unbelievable.As lots of people have said since,
you just can't really... The force of it is just amazing, really.
But help was at hand.
After travelling over a mile through the flash flood, at 9pm,
the Pearce's grandson, Edd, and his brother and father, finally arrived
to find Sol and Doreen struggling in the water taking over their home.
We didn't manage to move a great deal of stuff,
but what we did manage to move
was more of sentimental value than anything else.
I mean, it was pretty evident that we had to move a bit quickly and get what we could out.
It was a bit of a panic at first.
We come out, everybody was, by then it was right up the yard to the gate.
Once it came over, it was just like a dam.
It started filling the house up really quickly, and then eventually it got up to
about chest height, so it was time to get out then, really, before anyone got hurt.
With water levels rising rapidly,
the only option was to abandon the house.
So once you got out of the house, what happened next?
We went with, we went across to Anita's, our daughter's.
We walked across here to the car, and then we all went across there.
What was that night like, the first time you had been away from that house for 41 years?
-We never slept much, did we?
-We just wondered what was going to...
What sort of a state it would be in, like, really, I suppose.
By 10.45pm, areas of Ludlow directly hit by the flash flood
were being evacuated and the South Shropshire Leisure Centre
was opened to take in people forced from their homes.
For former town councillor Peter Corston, who dashed over
to help the evacuees, this was the beginning of a very long night.
The profound effect it had on me,
seeing those people sitting in the leisure centre,
the sheer devastation on their faces,
it had to be seen to be believed.
I don't think anybody ever expected anything quite like this,
and like everything else, how prepared can you be?
As the people of Ludlow faced a long, sleepless night,
the ever growing mass of floodwater was to bring more destruction to the town.
The fast flowing river continued to exert incredible pressure
on the surrounding buildings, roads and structures.
Located next to the Pearces' home, the town's Burway Bridge
provided one of the main routes into Ludlow town centre.
Throughout the day, the current of the cascading water
had been getting stronger and the pressure on the bridge was building.
By the early hours of the next morning,
the bridge had collapsed, causing mayhem throughout the town.
What did it look like?
-A bomb site.
-It did, really, yeah,.
It was quite a big concrete bridge, and it had just collapsed, you know?
And was this just from the sheer force of the water?
-Yeah, that's what the engineers told us.
The immense volume of the water trying to force its way
under the bridge undermined the support arches.
It was literally the amount of water that it was holding back.
The water couldn't flow under the new bridge quickly enough,
and of course, the weight of water that it was
holding back on that flood plain and in Lower Corve Street
was clearly too much for the bridge to support.
The next morning the flood waters started subsiding,
so Sol and his grandson Edd took the opportunity to go back
to Sol and Doreen's riverside home to rescue what they could.
How did you feel, you and your grandson,
when you got there, and what did you see?
Well, it was, you know, like, it was halfway up the kitchen window, the water had been.
Everything, like, on the ground floor was just saturated.
We managed to get back into the property
and get some of the belongings out, just some clothes and stuff
to begin with, for my nan and granddad,
just some stuff so they could carry on with daily life a bit more.
Having saved what they could, Sol returned to the safe haven
of his daughter's house where he was reunited with Doreen,
but, unbeknown to them, the flood was about to strike a devastating blow to their home of 41 years.
The first inkling they got was when they switched on the local news.
So you actually saw your house and the bridge actually for the first time on the news?
-What was that like?
Well, to me, I was surprised. I said, "Oh!" I just couldn't get over it.
"Look. It's taken a piece out."
A chunk of their house had fallen away into the water,
but the following day worse was to come.
When the bridge close to their home collapsed,
it created a suction that pulled away the foundations of the building.
Brick by brick, the house started to crumble into the river.
What happened next was unimaginable.
The sheer force of the water tore down Sol and Doreen's beautiful home,
washing their belongings into the gushing torrent of water.
The first we heard about the house collapsing was really by a friend,
-and she was crying and she was in a terrible state.
And it took me quite a few minutes to get out of her what was the matter.
All she kept saying was, "It's gone, it's gone."
I said to her, "What do you mean, Mary? What's gone?"
And she said, "Your house."
And I said, "Well, where's it gone?"
And she said, "In the river."
-And we couldn't believe it.
-So nobody was expecting this at all?
-I don't think they were.
-No, nothing like that.
-What an enormous shock!
We couldn't believe it when we saw how much it had gone, really.
Oh, no, no. All of Doreen's clothes, a triple wardrobe full of clothes...
-It all went out, all the side, everything.
-All that, you know...
-Literally just fell into the river?
-Floating around like a boat.
The flash flood was ultimately responsible for destabilising and destroying their beautiful home.
Sol and Doreen's plight made them the centre of local media attention.
-Look at it! I just can't believe that.
-No, I can't.
You can even see me dressing gown on the back of the bedroom door.
-How are you feeling?
Not brilliant at all.
Hundreds of memories had been washed away by floodwater.
Everything they'd worked for in life, really.
I mean, the house and all their belongings inside
and just seeing all those years of hard work and that just wiped away.
The community of Ludlow were devastated by this freak weather,
and throughout the county of Shropshire
1,000 properties were flooded and 70 people had to be rescued.
The District Council set up a flood relief, the administration,
to help local people immediately who'd lost everything.
Everybody's praying hard that it will never happen again,
but I think with the way global warming and the threats that we seem to have of extreme weathers,
then that is why people are now nervous,
I think, because they think it has happened once, and having suffered that,
then I'm sure they think, "Well, what's to stop it happening again?"
Coming up on Living Dangerously:
How will the Pearces rebuild their lives?
And find out what you can do to prepare yourself in the event of a flash flood.
Got an emergency grab bag, so if you have to leave the house in a hurry,
everything we need is there, prescriptions, insurance and even a credit card
that you've not used in the past that you can have in there,
so if you have to run you've got some way of getting some money.
Earlier on in the market town of Rayleigh in Essex,
what had started out as a relatively sunny day
had suddenly taken a turn for the worse.
Teenagers Sophie Frost and Mason Billington were struck by lightning,
sending 300,000 volts crashing onto their bodies.
A passer-by saw the couple in distress
and picked them up in her car.
When I phoned their parents,
I spoke to both mums and the first thing I said to them is,
"You don't know me, but I have Mason, Sophie in the car,
"and they've been struck by lightning,"
and obviously their response was, "Oh, my God!" It was a bit of a shock.
I just kept repeating myself, "What do you mean? What do you mean?"
I just couldn't take it in, what she was saying.
Meanwhile, in the back of the car,
Sophie was starting to realise the extent of her injuries.
When the lightning struck Sophie,
the wires to her MP3 player melted onto her skin.
I couldn't feel pain on my body,
but I could feel something running across my stomach.
That was my iPod lead, and I just ripped it out and a wire was stuck to my skin.
I pulled it out.
I couldn't feel it, but it was just like... Ew...a bit disgusting.
Sophie pulled the wires out of her top.
They were all black, and then she lifted up her top
and she had a big burn down her stomach.
It looked really, really bad.
It was now just after 7pm,
and Janet was desperate to get Sophie and Mason to hospital.
But with the storm continuing, this wasn't going to be easy.
The lightning was still coming down.
There was cars was slowing down.
There was horrific traffic, so it was just a worry that,
you know, I was maybe not going to be there as quickly as I could be,
but I did what I could.
At any particular moment, there are around 2,000 thunderstorms occurring in the earth's atmosphere.
A typical storm lasts about one to two hours
and can measure anywhere between two and 10 kilometres in width.
The chance of being struck by lightning is around one in three million,
and around five people get struck every year in the UK.
Most people who are hit by lightning aren't killed.
Perhaps one person in ten is, and that's typically a cardiac arrest,
but for most people, for about nine out of ten people,
they won't suffer such a bad shock as that.
They'll have some shock, but the most damage they're likely to have
is a burn where the lightning meets their body.
After a 30-minute car journey battling against the storm,
Janet finally arrived at Southend Hospital.
Sophie and Mason were rushed to the accident and emergency ward.
Their immediate concern was Mason's eye damage and Sophie's burns.
I remember when we got to the hospital, as soon as I stepped out of the car
there was just loads of paramedics and doctors
running to the car trying to put me, kind of carrying me to the A&E.
Sophie was in more bad condition than Mason, in that she looked...
You could see she was more burnt than Mason was.
All around her neck was black, and her top was melted
and her trousers were really badly torn.
Mason didn't look as bad, but obviously he kept closing his eyes
because he had been hit on the head quite badly.
Both families raced to the hospital as soon as they heard the news.
Mason's mum Sonia was first on the scene.
I was just really anxious to get to the hospital and see him.
It was just, his eyes and his head, he kept touching his head,
like as if he had severe migraine and closing his eyes,
and that frightened me and his dad.
You know, we just kept asking the doctors, "What's wrong?
"Why is he doing that to his head?"
They sort of assured us that it was normal,
that it's just part of the shock going through him.
They said I had burns to the cornea of my eye.
And there was just...and the ringing in my ear I had as well.
They were just concerned about my eyes and my ears.
Sophie was later transferred to a specialist hospital in Chelmsford
where she received treatment for her burns.
I had burns to my body. I had a perforated eardrum
and I had some damage to my eye, and my burns were all black
where there was melted plastic and all red and bloody kind of thing.
Lightning travels so fast that it breaks the speed of sound,
creating a sonic boom that can reach hundreds of decibels.
Sophie's eardrum was burst by this when the lightning hit her body.
And the burns on Sophie's legs were caused by lightning
travelling down her body on its way to the ground.
Luckily, Sophie was wearing an MP3 player that day,
and the wire to her headphones took the brunt of the attack,
diverting the lightning away from her vital organs.
Lightning will always prefer to find the most conductive substance
that it can find on its route to earth,
and the most conductive substance of all is probably silver or copper
or metal in a wire such as used for an electric circuit,
and so it will tend to find that route
just as water flowing downhill will find the route of least resistance.
Sophie and Mason both stayed in hospital for one week.
It's now two months on. Sophie still has scars to her chest, which will fade over time,
and Mason's long-range vision has been impaired,
but is expected to steadily improve and return to full vision in two years' time.
The pair are lucky to have survived this accident,
but how has it affected them psychologically?
-You know that was coming!
-That was mean!
Looking back at the experience, it's made us think, you know,
life is shorter, you know, kind of, it can end at any time, you know?
Have fun. Do the best you can, you know?
You've got to live it up, really.
It doesn't really hurt anymore.
There's no pain.
There's no long-lasting damage. Everything's all right, really.
All my injuries have gone down, like, dramatically improved.
My eyesight's a little bit blurry, but that's about it.
Yeah, everything's as normal.
I'm as fit and healthy as I was before, so, you know, I can do what I could do before.
If anything, it's improved my bowling, so, you know, it's all good!
I think it's made my bowling worse, to be honest!
I never used to be this bad!
In June 2007, Ludlow residents Sol and Doreen Pearce's home was
undermined by floodwater, causing it to collapse into a rampaging river.
Look at it! I just can't believe that.
-How are you feeling?
-Not brilliant at all.
Unable to withstand the power of the elements any longer,
the building simply crumbled into the swollen river below.
Save for a few keepsakes they could grab before escaping to safety,
Sol and Doreen lost everything in the house they had been living in for over 40 years.
-So you just had to accept that the house had gone?
And where did you live? Where did you stay?
We happened to see this bungalow, it'd been empty, and so we asked
our friend Marion and she said, "I can tell you whose it is,"
and they were in the process of thinking about doing it up to let it.
We had already looked at this earlier in the year
because we'd got ours on the market, and so we came back and had a look
at this and one or two more. We decided we'd buy this, and so we...
And a lovely place it is too!
And how's life been since you moved into your new home?
-All right, thank you, yeah.
Yeah, yeah, quite all right, yeah.
"All right, thank you!" So are you enjoying living in your new home?
Yeah. Find it a bit quiet to where I was, I got to be honest,
and I miss seeing the sheep and the ducks and, yeah...
The ducks on the river, like, and that.
Yeah. It's quite quiet here, really.
So you've lost something, but also gained something.
That's right, yeah. Can't win it all, can you, really?
I was glad to see the Pearces happy in their new home,
but with flooding a risk that millions of us face,
I want to find out more about what we can all do to protect our homes.
So I'm meeting Mary Dhonau from the National Flood Forum,
who has personal experience of the devastation flooding can bring.
Now, your home has been flooded countless times.
What advice would you give to people that live in flood areas?
Well, first, and most importantly, to sign up for the free
Environment Agency flood warning, so at least you know,
wherever you are, they're all singing, all dancing nowadays.
You can get one by text, by e-mail, at work, at home, a friend can tell you.
So you can sign up for that, and at least you can be alerted.
Now, one thing I've got is a family flood plan.
We've planned what to do should a flood warning come,
so even my kids are signed up to this, and by the time
I got home last time, my doors were upstairs, so my children know what to do,
and we've also got an emergency grab bag, so if we have to leave
the house in a hurry, everything we need is there -
prescriptions, insurance, everything that you need, and even a credit card
that you've not used in the past that you can have in there
so that if you have to run, you've got a way of getting money.
And you have one of these ready all the time?
Oh, yes, an emergency grab bag, absolutely, wouldn't be without one.
It's packed, and it's forgotten. I haven't got to worry about it.
I haven't got a last-minute panic should I have to get out. It's on the wardrobe, packed, forgotten about.
And what about your possessions in the house?
Well, there's lots of things you can do to protect your property.
Your home. There are anti-backflow valves, toilet bungs, and...
What's a toilet bung?
You put it down your toilet and pump it up to stop the sewage coming back up,
and having had a carpet of poo floating round in my house
and other people's toilet paper, and I know it was because I don't use
blue toilet paper, things like that, modern-day helpfulness to stop sewage coming into your home is great.
And also there are huge polythene bags that you can use for goods that
you can't get upstairs because if you can take your possessions upstairs,
great, but some people have got staircases that are too narrow or too big, three piece suites.
You can actually put them in great, big polythene bags.
Even your car can go in one.
-Yes, and you can wrap them up, and they can float in the water.
What would you say to somebody that might be watching now that is
actually stuck living in a flood area with no possibility of selling?
I think there are a few things that people can do.
For instance, get rid of wooden floorboards
and replace them with concrete and then ceramic tiles over them.
I have a cement-type plaster on the walls.
You can get Limelite plaster, and both of those are washable.
Electric sockets up the wall, everything that matters up the wall.
You can get plastic kitchens, stainless steel kitchens that can be washed down and steam cleaned,
and you can use them again, and I think if made those modifications to the inside of your house then you
actually have got a saleable item, and very importantly, the insurance industry will smile sweetly on you.
Well, Mary, thank you for talking to me. You're an inspiration,
and if I was a flood, I'd be scared of you!
Two years ago, overwhelming flash floods hit Ludlow,
leaving a thousand homes flooded.
The town's Burway Bridge collapsed,
causing the Pearce's beautiful cottage to fall into the river.
In June 2009, Sol and Doreen were invited along
to open the new bridge. What was that like?
Very nice, you know, good of them to ask us, really.
-We had to cut the tape.
-Oh, did you?
Did you feel almost royal, Sol?
I said as long as we didn't have to make a speech!
I did insist with the County Council that they really were the most appropriate people
to actually cut the tape because it was their house that had been washed away.
Sadly, as the location of their former home will always be prone to flooding,
a decision was made not to rebuild it.
Instead, insurers paid for Sol and Doreen to be relocated into their new home.
A neighbour who lives two houses away from their old house
bought the plot of land and has turned it into a beautiful garden.
But returning to the site of their former home is always going to be bittersweet.
Rosemary, the lady that bought the plot of land,
I mean, she's very good. If ever...
A couple of months ago, we went for a walk around.
We were stood on the bridge, and she was sat out there and saw us.
It all looks nice down here. Rosemary's got it very nice.
-Oh, she's got it very nice down here, yeah.
-It's lovely, isn't it?
We're always welcome to come. Any time we see Rosemary,
it's "Come and have a look," or, "Come and have a cup of tea," which is very nice.
There was nothing we could do about it, was there?
-No. It was just a thing that happened, so...
The people of Ludlow will always be marked by the effects of extreme flooding,
but until freak weather hits again, life goes on as normal.
Join us next time for more amazing stories on Living Dangerously.
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