Warning from devastated mum who lost treasured family photos in a flood.

When Charlotte Bradshaw’s house was flooded one rainy day in November it caused a massive upheaval. Her partner, Gareth, had just finished work on their house and they couldn’t wait to celebrate the holidays with their teenagers, Bella and Archie, and their Cocker Spaniels, Jaz and Bea.

They’d lived in their house for five years, and loved its location backing on to the River Darwen in Barrowford, having bought it feeling confident its proximity to water would never be an issue.

Then a combination of high rainfall and a drainage issue caused the river to overflow, and their house, and the rest of the row on Gisburn Road, were all swamped with sewage water.

“It was a shock because we just didn’t expect it,” said Charlotte. “Even though we are in a risk area, our house had never flooded in the nearly 200 years since it was built. Then suddenly we found our basement and utility submerged.”

“We were fortunate that we had house insurance, so Gareth did all the initial clear up, then we had industrial-sized dehumidifiers in the house for several weeks.”

Initially, Charlotte was preoccupied with concern for Gareth, who became ill from contact with the contaminated water. It was only weeks later when Gareth was able to empty the basement that she realised with horror their family photographs were in there.

“I had stored them in the basement,” Charlotte explained. “They weren’t even in a waterproof box, just a fabric one. There were thousands of them, saturated, and all stuck together.

“Gareth and I have known each other since my stepson Archie was a baby, so it was all baby and toddler pictures of him and my daughter Bella. Professional baby photographs, memories of the first few years of their life… all completely ruined.

“I was devastated. I cried and cried and cried a bit more.”

Charlotte, a Communications Manager at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “I have colleagues who work on flooding campaigns. I’ve seen the comms about emergency planning, and I’ve listened to all the flooding advice. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done the one simple thing that would have saved them and put them in the loft.”

Charlotte’s only remaining photographs from those precious years are some digital ones on a Sony Ericsson phone and those she posted on social media.

“It’s awful,” she said. “You want to be able to look back and reminisce. If people are talking about old photos, Bella will even ask where hers are. You feel a sense of guilt that you haven’t got them anymore. I just want to be able to rewind time and put them up high so this wouldn’t have happened.”

With Lancashire particularly susceptible to natural flooding hazards, Charlotte urged: “I would strongly advise people to take all possible precautions to store cherished items correctly. Put photographs in a waterproof box and store them somewhere safe. If possible, scan and store them digitally, and in the cloud as well so you have backups.

“You think it’ll never happen to you, but I am proof that it can when you least expect it. Don’t suffer the same fate as me and lose all your treasured memories.”

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