WHEELIE bins were never designed for flood control. But it was a question of needs must at Mamselle’s hair salon in Fossgate.

Owner Ken Heald had been here 48 years. But this was the first time his salon had ever flooded.

The water had come up to about a foot deep in the front of the shop – and more like two feet deep in a passage at the back. There were no pumps to clear it out. So instead Ken improvised, organising a human chain of family, staff and helpful passers-by to scoop up water in wheelie bins, haul it through front of the salon and tip it into the street.

Ken was trying to put a brave face on things. “It’s amazing how many of my customers have been in touch to see how we are,” he said. “There’s a lot of loyalty and support out there.”

He was also touched by the help he’d been offered by ordinary members of the public – among them sous chef Nick Sharman. Nick was part of the human chain bailing the salon out. “You can’t just stand around,” he said. “You can at least try to do a little bit to help.”

Brave faces only go so far, however. Ken admitted that as fast as the water was bailed out from the back of the salon, it seemed to be coming in again. And he was worried about what would happen if more rain fell in the next few days. “That’s the problem,” he said. “All we can do is try to clear up as much as we can.”

A few doors further along Fossgate, Sara Lakin of The Fossgate Social, was also worried about what might happen if there was more rain.

She bought the business with her brother Michael about 18 months ago. And while the flood waters never quite got into the shop itself, the cellar where they keep the beer had flooded.

Sara, like Ken, had had help cleaning up. “People have been lovely,” she said. “We had a group of students come along, sweeping up, bagging up rubbish.”

York Press:

Ken Heald sweeping up inside his flooded Fossgate salon Mamselle's

What really concerned her, however, was the fact that the Foss barrier had failed.

“When we bought this place one and a half years ago, we had a flood risk assessment done, and because of the barrier, we were assured it would all be fine,” she said. Clearly, it wasn’t.

Sara was at least hoping to be open today (Tuesday). But she, like Ken Heald, was worried about what would happen if there was more rain. York as a city was used to the odd rare flood event, she said. “But what if that’s going to happen twice every winter?”

York Press:

Sara Lakin (left) with staff and volunteers outside The Fossgate Social

Elsewhere in the city centre, many things looked oddly normal. The city had effectively been cut in half by the flooding of the Ouse and Foss. At one point the only way to get from Fishergate and Walmgate into the city centre was by using a narrow impromptu footpath next to the old Reynard’s Garage on Piccadilly. Pedestrians were politely queueing to get past each other.

Even so, the city centre was packed. The only problem for would-be shoppers in Coney Street and elsewhere was how to pay for things. Because telephone and internet connections were down, many shops were operating on a cash only basis, or else had reverted to using old-fashioned swipe technology.

The railway station seemed to be operating as normal. At 2pm it was packed with people leaving and arriving. All services were running normally – with the exception of a single train from Hull, which had been cancelled.

Back across the other side of town at Stonebow, the new Hiscox building had managed to escape the floods. But the back of the BT telephone exchange was under at least a couple of feet of water – hence all the phones being down. A weary engineer, his face lined and bestubbled from working through the night, wasn’t allowed to talk to the press. But from Black Horse Passage the exchange, the extent of the flooding was obvious. A pump was busy belching water from the innards of the building out into the street.

York Press:

Water pumps at work behind the BT telephone exchange

The far end of Stonebow was almost closed off by waters, save for a narrow thread of dry road in the centre. A file of floodwatchers were using this to get to the top of Foss Islands Road Road, which was completely under water.

CarpetRight, the carpet shop on the corner of Foss Islands Road and Layerthorpe, was open for business, just in case anyone came in. But with no internet behind connection, they wouldn’t actually be able to sell very much, admitted manager Rob Sidebottom.

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A construction lorry ploughs through floodwater on the corner of Foss Islands Road and Layerthorpe

At least the shop hadn’t actually flooded, he said. Turnbull’s garage just across the road was less lucky. The garage’s car park was entirely under water. Luckily, most of the new and used cars had been moved to safety. Rob Sidebottom at CarpetRight had been able to contact a Turnbull’s manager and offer them the use of his own shop’s car park, where they were safe from the water.

“You have to try to help where you can,” Rob said.

Which more or less summed up the attitude across York yesterday.