Woman left with phobia of the sound of rain after Hull floods

Woman was left with phobia of the sound of rain and man’s life was ‘shortened’ by 2007 floods that devastated Hull, report reveals

  • The floods in June 2007 devastated Hull and damaged around 8,800 homes
  • One man was killed and 1,300 businesses and 91 of 99 schools were damaged 
  • Now, a report has laid bare the mental health impact of the floods on residents 

One woman was left with a phobia of the sound of rain and a man’s life was shortened by the floods that devastated Hull in 2007, a report has revealed.   

In the June 2007 floods, one man was killed and approximately 8,800 homes, 1,300 businesses and 91 of 99 schools in the area were damaged.

Michael Barnett, 28, was trapped in a storm drain during the floods and died from hypothermia during an unsuccessful four-hour operation to free him from neck-high floodwater. 

Now, residents have responded to a survey carried out by the University of Hull on behalf of the Living with Water (LWW) partnership, revealing their heartbreaking accounts of the psychological cost of the floods.

One respondent described fearing the sound of rain on her house for a decade after the 2007 floods.

The mental health impact of Hull’s historic 2007 floods have been laid bare in a new report

In the June 2007 floods, approximately 8,800 residential houses, 1,300 businesses and 91 of 99 schools in the area were damaged

‘It took 10 years before I was able to hear the rain on my roof and not be scared,’ she said.

‘I instantly thought there would be another flood.’

One person said their wife had suffered a mental breakdown as a direct result of the flooding, while another described the impact on their young child.

‘My seven-year-old reverted back to bedwetting,’ they said.

‘Moving home, ringing insurance up and trying to be at work at the same time. The stress level for me and my husband was massive.’

Another respondent, who saw multiple house sales fall through following the flooding, went further.

She said her husband had died in 2010, adding that she believed the stress caused by the flooding had ‘shortened’ his life.

The mental and physical wellbeing impacts of the floods in both 2007 and 2013 have been highlighted by the University of Hull survey report, released in June this year.

The university’s energy and environment institute surveyed over 450 households in Hull in 2018 on behalf of the LWW partnership.

The LWW partnership is made up of Hull City Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency. It seeks to reduce Hull and East Yorkshires’ vulnerability to flooding.

Led by Dr Sam Ramsden, the university published earlier this summer the full report on the survey’s responses.

Over half of respondents (51%) whose houses were flooded or damaged by the floods in 2007 and/or 2013 reported health impacts.

Mental health impacts were reported by 43%, physical health impacts affected 19% and 12% reported both physical and mental health impacts of the floods.

Just under a fifth of all participants (18%) said flooding affected their financial situation.

One person said their wife had suffered a mental breakdown as a direct result of the flooding

A majority of respondents (51%) also ranked their protection from future flooding as ‘low’ or ‘very low’.

Almost as many (47%) said they had taken out home insurance which covered flood damage.

Yet more than a third of respondents (37%) said they had taken no actions at all to improve their resilience to flooding.

Besides demographic information, survey participants were asked questions covering four main areas:

Whether they experienced flooding in 2007 and 2013 and if so, how it affected them

Whether they feared flooding still, in 2018

What actions they had taken to reduce the risk of flooding

Understanding about city-wide measures taken by Living with Water (LWW) partners

The report provides four main recommendations for the LWW partnership based on the survey’s findings.

This includes developing in the long term a pilot surface flood water early warning system for Hull.

While Hull City Council are noted as supportive of developing such an early warning system, it ‘would require additional funding’.

Hull and the Humber area is the most flood vulnerable area of the UK outside of London, according to the University of Hull.

Of those who were flooded or had their houses damaged in 2007, 18% described the flooding and helplessness as the worst part of the floods.

More than a quarter (28%) said devastation to their homes was the worst part of the 2007 floods.

Residents from three wards badly impacted by the 2007 floods were targeted for the survey, Beverley & Newland, Derringham and North Carr.

Of the 457 total respondents, 37% were flooded and 22% affected by flooding.

The survey’s full report stresses the findings cannot reflect the experiences of Hull as a whole, but the University of Hull has a number of other ongoing flood-based projects.

The EvoFlood project is a collaboration between nine UK universities and led by Hull and the University of Southampton.

This five-year long project aims to improve global flood modelling. 

In April 2019, the University of Hull set up the £3.4m Flood Innovation Centre to small and medium-sized businesses develop products and services for flood resilience.

Finally, together with Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, the university hopes to create in the Humber area, Ark, a national flood resilience centre.

This facility, if constructed, would simulate flood environments and provide a training ground for emergency responders.

A university spokesman said that the Ark has no fixed date for opening as ‘we are still in the process of trying to attract the required funding for the project’.

The university and Humberside Fire and Rescue have each committed £1m to the Ark’s potential construction.

Remaining funding will come from either government or the private sector.

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