On November 27, 2012, a river swollen by days of heavy rain and unable to be soaked up by into the sodden ground topped the raised earth banks and began to flood St Asaph, first hitting Spring Gardens, before flooding Roe Park and land upsteam past the A55.
This week marks five years since the floods which hit hundreds of properties and claimed the life of 91-year-old Margaret Hughes.
Flooding on November 26 and 27 also hit homes at the Glasdir estate in Ruthin, in Corwen and many other locations around the county.
Looking back on the events, Rhyl RNLI Coxwain and team leader with RNLI Flood Rescue for Wales Martin Jones recalls jumping into action that morning.
“We were called in at 7.30am to reports of severe flooding in St Asaph,” he said.
“The flood rescue team was mobilised and met up with the Fire Officer from North Wales Fire and Rescue to give us a brief outline on what was going on and what we were expected to do.
“We were tasked with evacuating people down Mill Street, and we worked all day really, we were on standby until the early hours for the next tide, it was a long day.”
Darren Jones is Group Manager in Operations for North Wales Fire and Rescue and was on the ground in St Asaph to co-ordinate rescue and pumping.
“I was part of the control room team, and then after I was coordinating fire resources in the areas of flooding,” he said.
“I set up a holding area for all the agencies attending, so the RNLI, Search and Rescue the RSCPA, and any other resopnerders, as well as Fire and Rescue.
“We also set up a feeding area, for cleaning and rest at the OPTiC centre in St Asaph.
“Some of the St Asaph crews, some of their own houses were flooded, but they remained committed to helping people.
“Crews work tirelessley at an incident like this, really working for the community, and what is important is to get everything more efficient and more effective in pre-response as well, so hopefully we can learn and imrpove protection for crews and the public alike.”
Police recovered the body of Margaret Hughes from her home at Tai’r Felin at around midday.
Speaking the next day, Margaret’s family said: “She came from that “old stock” of Welsh farmers who carried on regardless of the circumstances, never complained or moaned and always put the wishes of others before her own.”
Darren said: “I don't think there could be any worse outcome for a fire, and when we hear sad news like this, it's sad for everybody, and as it is for the whole community. Everybody feels that loss, but basically you have to continue, to continue your work.
Martin Jones, from Rhyl RNLI continued: “I think when you’re dealing with floods and the devastation of people’s personal property, they have photos of children or loved ones that are no longer here, that’s devastating to see. You’re dealing with people’s emotions as well.
“It’s all their personal possessions they’ve gathered over a lifetime, but at the same time you want to get everybody to safety.
“It was always very difficult dealing with a tragedy like this, but you just try and remain professional, and evacuate everyone where possible
“In the end, they called the full team out, there were thirty or forty on the scene, they were coming up from South Wales and mid Wales.
“The flood rescue teams are constantly training, we go on regular courses and we meet every three months, they’re made up from different crew members all around the UK, it’s specialist role.”
The flooding itself was rated as a one in 200 year event. Since the flooding, Natural Resources Wales have put millions into trying to ensure the city is never hit in the same way again.
The Glasdir estate in Ruthin was also hit hard that day in November, after a culvert was blocked. Thanks to an eagle-eyed postman, residents were evacuated before water could put anyone at risk.
County Councillor for Ruthin, Emrys Wynne said: “The sights I saw on the morning of the Glasdir Floods will remain with me for a long time, but not as long as for the residents that were devastatingly hit by the immediate effects of the floods and the aftermath that followed.
“It’s frustrating that matters relating to these avoidable floods are yet to be resolved.
“Some residents are finding that the cost and nature of their house building insurance are in abeyance as they await reports from JBA and NRW on the Flood Defence Schemes that have since been installed.”
The cleanup from the floods took months. Half of those who fled their homes were yet to return six months later.
Darren Jones from North Wales Fire and Rescue said: “After we packed up, the cleanup became the authority's job. We got fire and appliances ready to respond again: we did have one call for a fire during the floods, so we had to be able to respond next.
“We attend flood meetings with the flood wardens and the like and enjoy seeing the community pulling together along with Natural Reources Wales to improve outcomes next time, so people are more aware ad better protected.”
County Councillor for St Asaph, Andrew Thomas was on the City Council at the time, and helped with the clean-up.
Cllr Thomas said: “We were collecting for those hit, and in all, £186,000 was donated which we got out to the people affected.
“It was from people from across the world, we had people in Australia wishing us well, the people from the US found out about us, all sorts of unexpected people were helping and supporting people, it was overwhelming
“Now, five years on, hopefully we have the defences all in places, so it shouldn’t happen again in our lifetime.”
See full story in the Free Press