Stonehaven’s residents and businesses have praised the town’s £16m flood defence scheme for helping to avoid the worst of Storm Babet.
There were fears that the south Aberdeenshire town would be hit badly once again.
However residents have said the Stonehaven Flood Prevention Scheme that opened in August has helped greatly.
Construction workers who built the flood defences over 15 months also visited the town to check how the structures were holding up – and were delighted to find that residents had “managed to avoid the worst of it”.
Preparing for the worst
Just before Christmas 2012, around 40 people were evacuated from their homes in Stonehaven after the river burst its banks, with water levels reaching waist high.
The town also suffered major flooding in 1988, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2007 and 2009, which caused the evacuation of nearby residents.
Other incidents of flooding have taken place since including in August 2020, and businesses and residents were preparing for the worst using floodgates and sandbags as protectors.
However one local business manager said he had a “lot of faith” in the flood defences.
Scott Crawford, chef manager of Charles McHardy Butchers, said: “We had the normal flood defences up on the doors and just making sure that everyone was cautious and safe coming into work, and didn’t take any unnecessary risks.
“The flood defences seem to have really held up pretty well.”
He added that the water did not come up near the business, as they have done in the past, and praised the project as a “fantastic job”.
On the same street, Charlie Michie’s Pharmacy was also braced for what Storm Babet had to bring.
‘We seem to have nailed it this time’
Pharmacist Richard Dunlop said that the town’s past experiences has helped businesses and residents prepare for the worst.
He said: “We’ve now got the floodgates and sandbags, and we just made sure that everything was watertight last night before we left and thankfully things weren’t this bad at this side of town.”
“We seem to have nailed it this time and hopefully that’s the future as well.”
Another business that made it through the night was LouSells, with sales assistant Claire Strachan saying she was “relieved” no damage had been done.
Discussing the shop’s preparations, she told us that her manager – who is on holiday in the sunnier climes of Miami – asked her to close early yesterday due to the worsening weather conditions and “hoped for the best through the night”.
Mrs Strachan also praised Aberdeenshire Council for dropping off sandbags in preparation for Storm Babet.
McLaughlin and Harvey – who built the flood defences – sent one of their workers to the town to see how they were holding up ahead of the storm.
Richard Porter said “it’s all been very successful” and that “everything worked fine”.
He added that all of the firm’s hard work had paid off, acknowledging that the town “managed to avoid the worst of it”.
Drains ‘always jammed up’
Funeral service arranger Michelle Butchart, from Gordon and Watson, said that the business would have flooded “if it had gotten any worse”.
She praised local resident Stewart Forbes for helping to clear the drains, which she said is “always jammed up” with debris.
Flood defences have made things ‘a lot better’
We met Martin Kasprowicz – who is the chairman of Stonehaven Folk Festival – while out with his wife and dog Susie. He said: “I think the town has coped very well and I think the flood defences have worked.”
Another resident Bell Anderson said that locals are so vigilant due to being “so used to it now” and that the flood defences have made things “a lot better”.
‘At least we weren’t flooded’
There was clear community spirit in Stonehaven, with neighbours checking up on each other, including Bill Emslie.
The retired businessman told The P&J that the first night of storms was “OK”, adding gratefully “at least we weren’t flooded”.
Mr Emslie has concerns about flooding in the area, due to drains being blocked with debris from the sea.
He added that another issue is the town’s south side getting water coming down from the Bervie Braes, which affects “the auld toon folk”.
Although the potential for flooding is still high in Stonehaven, the new flood defence surviving Storm Babet last night and a rainbow over the town’s sky may suggest that a brighter and drier future is ahead.