RESIDENTS of Towyn and Kinmel Bay will gather to remember the devastating floods which saw 5,000 people forced from their homes in 1990.

On February 26, 1990, residents had to leave their homes after 2,800 houses were evacuated when high tides and extreme weather broke down sea defences causing flooding to many low-lying coastal homes in the area.

The event had lasting impact on the towns, with Princess Diana returning to St Mary’s Church in October that year after a visit with Prince Charles at the time of the floods. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the devastation, residents and dignitaries – including AMs, MPS and mayors from across North Wales – will join at the church in Towyn, on St David’s Day, Sunday, March 1 at 3pm.

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Princess Diana revisits St Mary's Church in October 1990

Kinmel Bay photographer Phil Micheu, who was in Towyn when the wall breached, said: “I was driving down the A55 when I came off at the St George turning and saw what looked like clouds coming over the church steeple.

"As I got closer, I realised they were waves – they were rising that high.

“I got out for the car and while I was on the footbridge I saw the wall break. If I hadn’t of got back in my car, I wouldn’t have made it out.

“Strangely, we weren’t flooded in Kinmel Bay, but my parents in Towyn were.

Mr Micheu added: “My father died shortly afterwards.

“While he wasn’t killed directly in the floods, when he saw the damage it had caused to his home he had a heart attack shortly afterwards.”

Rhyl Journal:

The shattered remains of the sea wall at Towyn, after the storm had subsided two days later. Picture: Phil Micheu

IN 2015, the Journal reported on Barry Griffiths’, chief flood warden for Towyn and Kinmel Bay, experiences during floods, where he remembers seeing rolling waves of sea water in the place of grass fields.

He said: “The street and gardens were flooded. I swept water out of the garage that is lower than the rest of the property and we thought we had been lucky. Then more little waves rolled in and the water level started to rise quickly. We waded out and evacuated.

“My wife Lynda saw the water flow across our lounge floor as she closed the door; there were inflatable boats and a helicopter along our avenue.T he wind picked up, it got colder the water was freezing and about three feet deep.

“After the flood, we had to throw out almost everything. I found a way of recovering printed photos. The destruction of our home was nothing compared to the stress of managing recovery.”

Mr Griffiths explained that for about three weeks his family had to stay with friends near St Asaph, before renting a house in Bodfari. The family, like many displaced by the floods, were forced to live in a caravan in the garden until repair work was complete in October 1990.

In addition to the service, an exhibition is open to the public every day at the church until Sunday from 10am until 4pm. The town council is also inviting residents with archive material to display items to the church .

Towyn and Kinmel Bay mayor cllr Morris Jones said: “I have been asked over the last few days why would people want to commentate or remember the day. This can only be viewed on a personal level as everyone copes with difficulties, trauma in their own way.

“We have put together pictures of the floods, pictures of Towyn and Kinmel Bay in years gone by going back to the early 1900s and some time further back than that.”

“We have newspaper cuttings of the floods with Princess Diana visiting the area, including St Mary’s Church, Towyn, were she had her photograph taken with a member of the church, also the visitors book signed by Princess Diana.”

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The Kinmel Bay flood defences struggled to hold the waters back after Storm Ciara. Picture: Barry Griffiths

In addition to remembering the past, the significant anniversary also places new challenges facing flood defences in the area today in sharper focus.

In the aftermath of Storm Ciara earlier this month, waves topped the defences, flooding gardens and roads westwards from Woodside Avenue to the Golden Sands Holiday Park.

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Residents were forced to use sandbags after waves topped the coastal defences. Picture: Barry Griffiths

While there was ultimately no damage to the holiday park – it remained closed for 48 hours as a safety precaution – each of the 45 caravans had be evacuated, with holiday makers receiving being offered compensation.

Cllr Griffiths added: “The big issue with flooding in the past was aftermath – the consequences of a half hour flood could have you out of your home for a year.

“But I continually ask what would happen if 1990 happened today, now with an even bigger population in the area?

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Barry Griffiths has warned of the vulnerability of the town's face due to the increase in extreme weather. Picture: Barry Griffiths

“We need to make sure make sure that we have our retaliation measures in place before a flood event. Climate change is with us now, and it manifests in the more frequent occurrence of extreme weather conditions where high tides coincide with low pressure and high wind. If these had lined up after Storm Ciara, the situation would have been much worse.

“There’s a popular misconception that the flood risk is behind us, but we’re moving on to increased dangers which means we must learn from the past.”