One resident likened it to “a tidal wave”, whilst another said: “It was terrifying - the water rose so quickly, it was a massive surge.”
They were referring to a freak flood on Friday afternoon as water surged down Herring Stream, hit Spitalford Bridge, which crosses Keymer Road in the centre of Hassocks and backed up, swamping resident’s gardens off Parklands Road.
Resident Sarah Shortreed said: “Within ten minutes it had swamped my 70ft garden. I looked round the kitchen and made a mental picture of what I needed to save. I grabbed the passports and took them upstairs.
Fellow resident Christina Angus said: “It was like a tidal wave. It bubbled over our garden gate and was lapping the decking. I was terrified. I called the emergency services but they said the fire brigade would only come out if water comes into your property.
“I phoned the Environment Agency and the council to get sandbags but they said: ‘we don’t provide them’.”
Jane Nayar, who runs The Wild Dove yoga studio by Spitalford Bridge said: “We had to almost evacuate our business. We called the Environment Agency and the council and were told to buy our own sandbags. We felt we had no support at all.”
Her colleague, Sam Holland, who runs The Wild Dove Café next door,added: “It was pandemonium, the water was rising so quickly. Jane noticed it and screamed and I think I did the same.”
All the people we spoke to said they were passed “from pillar to post” on the telephone, not knowing what to do or who to call for vital information to cope with the sudden surge of water.
Christina is calling for leaflets to be distributed by either the county or district council if a ‘red’ or amber warning is given by the Met Office over potential flooding so that people know where to get sandbags, how to use them to the best advantage and who to call if floodwater rises and threatens their home.
The water subsided within a few hours and although it came very close to breaching residents’ back doors, no-one was flooded out - this time.
Chris Wick, the Environment Agency’s manager for Sussex said: “We had a call from the fire service. We sent out some data recorders but by the time they got there the water level had dropped by about 2ft.
“There might have been a blockage in the system and water pressure built up behind it, causing the surge of water.
“This is an ordinary water course and falls under the responsibility of the district council. We are working with the council and looking at a model of the catchment. The cause of the surge is speculation at this stage.”
The Environment Agency has produced a booklet called ‘Living on the Edge’ which outlines the responsibilities of people who live next to a watercourse, the role of the Agency and local authorities. The booklet is available online as a PDF through the Agency’s website: environment agency