TEN years ago it was the day the rains came down on Worcester and kept on coming and coming and coming.

Had rumours started that a chap was building an ark on high ground in St John’s they wouldn’t necessarily have been disbelieved.

“Of biblical proportions” was a fair description of the waterfall-like downpour and the floods it brought.

The freak weather was all the more freaky because it occurred in the middle of the summer, Friday, July 20, 2007 to be exact.

Twelve months before the county had been basking in a heatwave with record temperatures. It was the time of the year when spectators at Worcestershire County Cricket Club's New Road ground were supposed to be sitting in the shade of the spreading chestnut trees, listening to the mellow clunk of willow on leather and discussing the progress or otherwise of their geraniums.

As it was, anyone who had chosen to occupy seats at the cathedral end would have been under water and in need of a snorkel.

Two hundred spectators had to be evacuated from a marquee on the ground and it was probably the first time the city wished it had a lifeboat.

In fact, the storms spelled the end of home games for Worcestershire for the rest of the summer. With the pitch under water, the club relocated remaining fixtures to Kidderminster.

The monsoon rain forced drivers to abandon cars, caused schools and homes to be evacuated and brought power cuts which caused chaos across the county and neighbouring Herefordshire.

Firefighters, ambulance crews and police were in overdrive rescuing both young and old.

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Alec Mackie, who had lived in the area for almost 70 years, said: “I have never seen such sustained chaos. The day was unprecedented. In terms of impact it tops the 1947 floods and the great whiteout of 1981, when we were hit by a blizzard. We had about 400 calls to flood related incidents and had to take on extra staff.

In the end, we had to advise and comfort people over the phone because we had to prioritise and get out to life-threatening situations.”

In a non-stop day of drama 550 children were carried out by firefighters from flooded Cherry Orchard Primary School, Timberdine Close, Worcester, and a 99-year-old woman was among 28 pensioners lifted to safety by firefighters when their care home Timberdine Resource Centre in nearby Timberdine Avenue was swept with water.

It was an unscheduled, exciting end of term for the pupils at Cherry Orchard, where the school was engulfed by floodwater.

Eleven-year-old Sam Sherlock said : “A fireman lifted me on to a table and then he carried me on his back through the water. Some of the children were crying. It was a little bit scary.”

Headteacher Jeremy Harwood said the water formed a moat around the building after flowing down Bath Road.

He explained: “It started to be obvious at about 1.15pm that we would have to call parents and then it really came up at that point. The water has been flowing through like a river. The children have been quite entertained by it. They have been great and have found it amusing. For some this is their last day at the school so it’s been a rather different ending for them.”

Meanwhile, as pupils across Worcestershire were sent home early because of the torrential rain, some were left stranded when buses were cancelled. A school coach, which was due to pick up children from St Barnabas CE School in Drakes Broughton, near Pershore, was cancelled due to the road conditions leaving some 35 children trapped at the school in Stonebow Road. Elsewhere, youngsters from Pinvin First School were stranded after parents were unable to reach them via the usual routes.

Members of staff and teachers stayed with the children until they were collected.

Nearly 20 schools took the decision to send their students home early and at Hanley Swan Primary School, near Upton-upon-Severn, a spokesman said: “The roads are just horrendous. There are horrible driving conditions, which are just getting worse.

"We are worried if we leave it too long, the children won’t be able to get home at all. So we have taken the decision to send them home early. We are in the process of calling all parents and guardians now.”

As well as Hanley Swan Primary, among those urging parents to collect their children early were: Defford and Besford First School, near Pershore; Bredon Hancocks First, Bredon; Harvington First School, near Evesham; Bosbury Primary, near Ledbury; St Richard’s First School, Evesham; Bredon Hill Middle School; Bretforten First School; Peterchurch Primary in Herefordshire; Cradley Primary School, Cradley, near Malvern; Burley Gate Primary, Hereford; Aylestone School, Hereford; Eldersfield Lawn Primary School and Chase Technology College in Malvern.

In Colwall, near Malvern, parents were urged to only collect children in four-wheel drive vehicles, when the roads surrounding Colwall CE Primary School became impassable.

Flood defence barriers went up across the area, first of all in Bewdley, followed by Worcester and Upton-upon-Severn, where there was a slight complication, as burger vans gathered for the town’s blues festival had to be moved out of the way first. Fields originally planned for camping were also cleared.

Across the county, hundreds of roads were closed leaving scores of motorists stranded as only four main routes were left out of Worcester and a power cut hit 12,000 people in St Peter’s, Whittington, Powick and Kempsey, after an electricity substation in Timberdine was flooded.

Nearby at Timberdine Resource Centre in Timberdine Avenue all the residents, including one 99-year-old, had to be carried out of the home when water flooded the building. They were taken by ambulance to various other homes in Worcester and Malvern to be cared for until conditions improved.

The building – next door to Cherry Orchard Primary School – was hit by a power cut and flooding which made the toilet facilities unusable.

Watch manager for Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Phil Harvey said the home was surrounded by a “moat” of flood water.

He explained: “We had water coming from the drains and fields. We had to evacuate.”

Community Support Officer Jon Townsend added: “There was six inches of water at the front of the building. The water was rising as fast as we were getting people out.”

St John Ambulance and West Midlands Ambulance Service helped out in the operation.

Fire service rescue boats and helicopters were dispatched to Sedgeberrow, near Evesham, to rescue 39 householders after properties swelled with water from the River Isbourne. Boats also sped out to evacuate residents of a caravan site on the outskirts of Bromyard after the river Leadon burst its banks.

Traffic lights in Sidbury, Worcester, failed causing traffic chaos and there was disruption to public transport when train services between Worcester and Hereford were cancelled and services between Worcester and Birmingham axed due to a landslip near Droitwich.

The planned closure of Powick Bridge for essential repairs has been postponed following the torrential rain.

The bridge was due to shut for six weeks to enable refurbishment and waterproofing to take place.

However, due to the constant heavy rain, many of the main routes into Worcester were affected by flooding and Worcestershire County Council decided it would delay the Powick Bridge work.

County council senior bridge engineer Richard Attwood said: “We do not want to add to the pain by closing a road that could be used.

"We are having to close so many roads because of the flooding, we thought it would be better to delay the Powick Bridge closure until Monday.”

A revised bus timetable was introduced with all buses that normally cross the bridge being being diverted via Hams Way and Bransford Road.

Mr Attwood added: “Hopefully the worst of the flooding will be over this weekend and it will get better. We will be keeping an eye on the river levels just in case it affects the old Powick Bridge.”

The historic sandstone bridge was opened to cyclists and pedestrians as part of the scheme to keep people moving.

Emergency rest centres were set up in Pershore and Evesham for people caught out by the desperate conditions.

A Wychavon District Council spokesman said: “ Stranded motorists and people who have had to leave their homes will be able to have a cup of tea or coffee at the centres.

"We have opened them so anyone affected by the conditions will have somewhere safe and warm to go.”

It was a day no one who was caught up in the dramas will ever forget.

  • Our photo special commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 2007 floods will appear in the Worcester News on Monday, July 24