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Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire

Chest high water: Remembering the Stonehaven floods of 2012

Susy Macaulay
Firemen wade through floods to rescue people during the December 23 floods in Stonehaven. Image: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Flooding in Stonehaven. It’s been happening for centuries, thanks to the proximity of the Rivers Carron and Cowie and the Glaslaw Burn, not to mention the sea itself.

The dreaded event can occur at any time of year, but the gods of excess water quite often favour the week before Christmas just to keep residents on their toes.

On December 18, 1882, both the Carron and the Cowie burst their banks in adverse weather, and the landscape being much more rural then, it was folk working in agriculture who bore the brunt.

The massive flood of December 23 2012 wreaked havoc in Stonehaven and its environs. Image: Ross Johnston / Newsline Scotland

John Caird, a carter, saw his little cottage fill with water from a ditch on the nearby Aberdeen road.

He had to remove his four horses and cow as his stables filled up, his poultry house was awash and his potato pits ruined.

A little further on, George Taylor, ropemaker, had to vacate his house after water entered to above the window sill.

Pig sties filled up, and round about, the roads were impassable.

The High Street in Stonehaven after the flood of December 23, 2012 Image: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Fast forward 130 years to 2012, and the scene for Stonehaven residents was just as traumatic.

The problem started on December 22 in shocking weather after the River Carron burst its banks.

There had been 48 hours of rain, followed by a torrential downpour in the early hours of December 23, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Emergency services had to attend 100 homes, and amid rising water levels, they evacuated 40 families.

Emergency Services rescuing residents from their homes in Stonehaven after the flood of December 23, 2012. Image: Ross Johnston / Newsline Scotland)

Water from the fields above the town rushed down onto the main road and High Street and flooded to waist height or above.

Where there wasn’t standing water, there was mud and debris everywhere.

The High Street was left a shambles

Water reached car bonnets, and there was raw sewage on the street.

Pity poor resident Jill Paterson, resident on the High Street.

Stonehaven town centre in the great flood of December 2012. Image:DCT

She had been wakened by car alarms in the early hours, and looked out to see ‘brown, gungy water’ filling the street.

Even worse, it was coming up through her bath and toilet.

“My heart was thumping in my chest,” she said.

She wasn’t alone

Many residents had to deal with filthy water coming into their homes through sinks and shower drains.

Local councillor Wendy Agnew said: “It was flowing into the old town like a river. It went over the flood defences put in place after the last disaster.

The emergency services had their work cut out rescuing stricken families after the flood. Image: Ross Johnston/Newsline Scotland)

“Some people I’ve spoken to are very traumatised. It’s especially worse at this time of year.”

Businesses were also affected, and cars written off.

Amid a risk to life, fire crews made 45 rescues and deployed dinghies to get people out of danger.

Chest level water

Resident Kenny Lambie waded into the old High Street to help the rescue effort and said the water was up to chest level.

“It was frightening how much there was. Sandbags are a waste of time when there’s that much.”

An emergency centre was established at Mackie Academy.

Christmas Day 2012. Residents were determined to enjoy their day despite the trauma of the flood. Image: Ross Johnston / Newsline Scotland)

Many folk were able to move on to stay with relatives, but three families had to be given temporary accommodation overnight.

With Christmas fast approaching, the generous townsfolk offered to put people up and give them Christmas dinner.

Many of the stricken had only just recovered from devasting floods in November 2009.

The aftermath of the Stonehaven floods of November 2009. Image: Chris Sumner/DCT

Battles and rows over flood protection measures for the town  continued for the next decade as plans were being drawn up for such a scheme.

The £15m Flood Protection Scheme is underway, but much winter weather still lies ahead in the immediate weeks.

Here’s hoping Stonehaven residents can enjoy a quiet and above all dry Christmas 2022.

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