One moment, people were enjoying the Bank Holiday heatwave. The next, their roads had turned into rivers, with water lapping against their front doors. In an hour, torrential rain on Monday afternoon damaged businesses and flooded homes – and was gone as quickly as it arrived.
Firefighters were called to 40 incidents, particularly in Littlehampton town centre, Rustington and Angmering, on Monday, with crews working ‘tirelessly’ to pump water away and isolate electrics. There were no reports of injuries.
Darren Prior, owner of A2B 24hr Taxis in East Street, said the carpet in their office would need to be replaced, and a wall and electrical circuits may have been damaged.
He said: “It was obviously a shock. It happened so quickly; within half an hour there was at least a foot of water backing up out of the drains. It was like a Florida storm. A complete downpour with sunshine before and after.
“Local businesses right along the street have suffered. Upper Crust has been completely gutted with equipment out on the street during the clear up; seven or eight of us were sweeping two-inch deep water out of the Chicken Cottage and the lady who owns the hairdressers on the corner was unaware what had happened until visiting later in the day. And I know the tattoo shop round the corner has been heavily damaged.”
Also badly affected was South Terrace and Bayford Road in the town centre. Angela Tester, Littlehampton Flood Action Group secretary, was at home in Bayford Road when the rain fell at 2.30pm. When it subsided, a third of her road was submerged. She said: “Residents were distressed because people were driving down the road, and the waves were coming into their houses.”
She donned high boots and waded through the water to help others, and spotted people in New Road, mopping their kitchens. With her fellow group members she co-ordinated the response before the fire service arrived half an hour later. Arun District Council praised them for a ‘sterling effort’.
An East Street resident, who did not wish to be named, said his neighbours rallied together to help each other and redirect traffic away from the flooding. He said: “There was a real community spirit.
“At one point, water was shooting out of a manhole a foot higher than the height of the flood.”
Karley Merison, 33, of Rectory Gardens, Worthing, was driving along East Street with her mother and daughter when her car engine was flooded, with water coming up to the doors. She said residents offered her cups of tea and three drivers pulled over to push her car off the roundabout and onto the kerb. On Facebook, she said: “I wanted to say a massive thank you to the people who came to our rescue.”
Southern Water said it sent crews to internal flooding in 13 homes and gardens and has been carrying out clean-up of the area, using dehumidifiers and heavy jets to clear debris.
The town centre was also badly flooded in 2012, and many residents felt the sewers were not working properly. In response, Southern said: “We understand flooding from sewers is distressing and wherever possible we work hard to reduce the risk of it happening. However, flooding is a complex issue and it is not always possible to prevent it.”
In response to the Littlehampton Traders’ Association’s request, Arun District Council is organising a meeting to discuss how to prevent the flooding happening again.
The Littlehampton Flood Action Group is also meeting with Southern Water on July 6 where the floods will be discussed.