Julie Platt (Wightflight) was asleep in her bungalow in Wootton on the Isle of Wight when a wave of water engulfed the property, leaving her, her 14-year-old son, partner Lee Wooliscroft and dogs struggling to find a place of safety. Two of the dogs were seconds away from drowning when they were rescued.
The family woke at 2.30am to ‘a massive noise, clanging and banging’, as the wave – which Ms Platt believes was caused by a reservoir bursting its banks and the water running down a valley towards them – hitting the bungalow. A large section of the island had been flooded in recent days.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” said Ms Platt, who also races her dogs. “The water was coming in through gaps in the doors and I was trying to work out how to get myself, my son Rohan, Lee and our 12 dogs onto the roof. “We just didn’t know how high the water was going to go. It was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see anything.” At that point the water was nearly 3ft deep in the house and higher outside. There had been a power cut all evening, everything was in darkness and the torch’s battery was failing. “I hadn’t got a clue what was happening,” Ms Platt said. “We’re in a very rural area so there was no one to ask. “I rushed into Rohan’s room and told him to put his Wellies on and stand on the bed and not to move. He stayed like that for an hour and a half.”
The 11 Huskies and Australian Cattle Dog sleep in a room in the bungalow which is higher than the rest of the property. Ms Platt was about to make her way there when she heard the dogs ‘screaming’. “I rushed to the room, opened the door and saw that water had poured in through the dog flap, which was slightly open, and the dogs were literally swimming in about 3ft 6in of water,” she said. “The worst was that I keep two of the boys in wooden crates overnight which are fixed to the wall and they were under water. As I opened the door the water all poured out and drained away so they emerged again. “I can’t describe how confusing it all was, not knowing what was happening and being half asleep. I was about to go to check on the dogs but their screaming made me rush there – if they hadn’t screamed those two would have died.”
The 12 were brought out of the room, and put in crates on work surfaces in the kitchen. “I wanted to make sure they were safe as I was worried they would get swept away through the kitchen window – which was our only way to get outside – and disappear,” Ms Platt said.
She and Mr Wooliscroft run a boarding kennels and a hydrotherapy business for dogs. The kennels are on higher ground, and the couple were relieved to find the 12 dogs were safe and untouched by the flood when they managed to get to them to check. “Before we went to bed we had been clearing out the drains outside, so I had waders in the house and Lee had his dry suit which made things a bit easier,” Ms Platt said. “We’re fairly in land and the bungalow has never flooded before. It was just exceptional weather.”
The chickens were not so lucky, with 20 of the 40 drowning.
Ms Platt phoned the fire brigade, but their personnel were too busy to help, so they managed to get hold of some friends who arrived 90 minutes later to pick up Rohan who was then ‘piggybacked’ out to the 4×4.
The couple are now living in a camper van and the dogs in the converted van used to transport them to races and shows. “It’s far from ideal,” Ms Platt said. “Every time it rains we drive both vans to higher ground just in case. It’s difficult to relax. “The dogs are going a bit stir crazy. We’ve got land they can be exercised on but of course they can’t be raced.
“The two boy Huskies who were under water don’t seem to have minded at all, although some of the girls are upset. They’re all fine and we’re just trying to get over it and get used to being homeless. “The house has suffered some damage – stud walls have collapsed, the kitchen will have to be ripped out and a fireplace is falling off. By the next morning the water had gone but the damage was done.
“We drained the hydrotherapy pool and refilled it, and one of our clients is a boiler engineer and he mended that for us. I can’t tell you how kind and helpful everyone has been. Running a hydrotherapy pool you spend a lot of time with your clients and get to know them really well and become friends. They have helped so much, as have our friends from the sledding and showing world – there is a real community spirit among the Siberian Husky people. I can’t thank everybody enough.”