The Storm Dennis flooding victims now living through coronavirus lockdown

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For many people it seems like a lifetime ago that Wales was hit by Storm Dennis which brought serious flooding to homes and businesses.

Just a few weeks on and the headlines have now been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic which is killing people in Wales and across the world.

There are some communities in Wales who are dealing with both of these life-changing events. Not only are they in lockdown after the government introduced new rules on Monday, but they are also still recovering from the recent floods.

There are families forced to live upstairs, local businesses which had to close and sports teams struggling to fundraise to reopen next season, while all trying to maintain social distancing and protect themselves from coronavirus.

We spoke to three households in the Rhondda Valleys whose lives have changed significantly after Storm Dennis about how they are now also coping during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tyler Baker

Tyler Baker has not only lost her home but has also lost her job as an estate agent and is living with her partner Dale and his parents at their home.



Tyler and her partner Dale

Tyler and Dale had to move out of their home in Lewis Street in February after the downstairs was ruined by flood water.

“You’ve caught me on a good day today – it’s the first day I haven’t cried,” said the 23-year-old who now lives a couple of miles up the road in Treherbert.

“I’ve been bursting into tears on the phone to my mother. It’s taken a massive toll on my mental health and I’m exhausted to say the least and I’m scared to do anything, go anywhere. I have to look for a new job too. It’s put a brick wall up with everything, house, work.”

Although she trained in educational and childhood studies, Tyler has always had a passion for property and interiors so decided to have a career change and became an estate agent last autumn.

“I used to be a teaching assistant for two-and-a-half- years,” said Tyler who has owned her Pentre home for 18 months and had redecorated just before the floods.

“But my Instagram home account got it (the passion for property) all going – I never thought I’d turn it into a career. But I thought if I didn’t do it now, I never would.

“It hasn’t paid off in the long run.”



Tyler’s home before the flooding



And Tyler’s home after it flooded

Tyler lost her job on Monday, March 23, after the estate agents she worked in gave her notice

“I went in on Monday and at 1pm they handed me my notice, said it was due to probation period, but on the letter it said to financial circumstance,” she said.

Now, as well as worrying about her house being finished and when she and Dale will be able to move back in, Tyler is also worrying about how to pay the bills while she searches for another job.

“I’ve still be looking for jobs and stuff for the house and getting the same answer ‘due to Covid-19’.

“Half the time I do feel like the world is against us, but nothing can be prevented,” said Tyler.

“I’m going from sadness to anger and I’m thinking what’s going on? How much more can I take before I go go into complete meltdown.”

Tyler and Dale have been able to stay with his parents for the past month and a half. With six adults and three dogs at home they are all making sure to carry out the hygiene practices to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We’re close as a family unit,” said Tyler. “It’s only yesterday that all of us started being home, but Dale’s mam is working for the NHS so she has to go back and forth.

“It is worrying there are so many of us here, health comes first, but we’re all trying to stay positive.”

Lian Roderick

Another Lewis Street resident, Lian is still at her flooded home with her two children, Chloe and Ciaran Griffin.

All three of them have Type 1 diabetes. They were offered a place to stay, but it was in Cardiff which would have made life more difficult for Lian when dealing with those assessing her home.



Lian with her children

Work on repairing their house has stopped and their kitchen is limited to a gas hob and a small table top oven.

“The floods are still with us,” said Lian, 46. “Other people who didn’t get affected only have to worry about the virus – we’ve got the two to deal with.

“I’m fed up. I just want to get on and do things. I see people saying they are decorating their bedroom to pass the time away, but we can’t do that.

“All of our downstairs is upstairs – we can’t touch downstairs.”

Lian said cleaning up the dust is a losing battle and the family’s diet, due to their diabetes, has gone out the window with their minimal kitchen conditions.

“We lost practically everything downstairs and we are living here now with concrete walls and concrete floors. The kitchen can’t be used.

“We do have a gas hob and we have been given a small oven which isn’t very good in terms of catering for us all. We’re managing to use our shower, which isn’t the best, but there’s clean water coming out of it that’s the main thing.

“It’s not completely dry and I have a probe to check the wall. The damp does worry me, we could be a bit more vulnerable to coronavirus. I’ve got one radiator in the living room because the walls have come down. They wanted to take the two of them and I asked them to leave me one because we’d have no heating.£

The panic buying and access to diabetic medication is another concern for the mother-of-two.

“You carry on every day, but it’s an absolute nightmare. You’e got no comfort and being self-isolated, that’s hard.”

Alison Chapman

Shop owner Alison is a proud member of the UK’s best high street as she owns Wonder Stuff in Treorchy where she has been serving the community for more than 20 years.

Wonder Stuff is now closed due to the lockdown rules set by the government. And at the same time, Alison’s home on Dumfries Street in the town is slowly recovering from the impact of Storm Dennis.

Houses in the lower block of the street were hit by flood waters during the storm. Alison woke up during the early hours of February 16 to find dirty, muddy water across the ground floor of her house.



Alison’s home before the flooding



And after it flooded

The water damage was more than Alison had at first anticipated and the house is still drying out.

“The whole downstairs has turned into a building site, but we are lucky, we have managed to make it liveable at the moment and taking one day at a time whilst we try and get the house back to normal,” Alison said.

“This has obviously been put on hold because of coronavirus. I do feel that we as a family are lucky that we haven’t had to move out of the property, although the insurance company asked us to but we have made the house workable. Many families that were affected by the flooding have had to move out of their homes, prolonged by the situation we are all currently in with the virus.”



Alison Chapman runs Wonder Stuff interiors in Treorchy
Alison Chapman runs Wonder Stuff interiors in Treorchy

Alison shares her home with partner Julian and her children, Aron and Eliza, and at first didn’t think coronavirus would impact on Wales’ communities so much.

“I never thought that it would have such an impact on our lives and businesses. In the beginning, it seemed like it was something that was happening somewhere else.”

Alison doesn’t think flooding victims have been forgotten but she is aware that uncertainty surrounding coronavirus will prolong the situation for those affected by the recent floods.

“I am not sure whether flood victims have been forgotten, but the continual spread of the virus will have an impact on us getting our homes back to normal which in itself causes extra stress.

“It’s the uncertainty of what’s happening that’s the hardest to deal with, both with the flooding and the virus, and unfortunately will prolong the answers of why we were flooded and what measures can be put in place to stop this happening again.”

Although Covid-19 has also now impacted on her business and many other businesses around Treorchy and Rhondda, she is trying to look on the positives.

“This is a worrying time for everyone. All the steps that have been taken are for the greater good and as I always like to look on the bright side, we will hopefully come out on the other side and our towns and communities will be bustling once again in the not too distant future,” she said.



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