FLASH floods have seen “great waves of water” sweep away a bridge in Nidderdale.
Torrential rain fell across the district last week, leaving lakes at the brink and rivers full to bursting.
Last Thursday afternoon saw roads turn to chaos as great rivers of rainwater swept through towns and villages from Dacre to Summerbridge.
One person was rescued from a trapped car at Darley and carried free as flood waters rose several feet and the road became impassable.
Other drivers were forced to abandon their cars at the side of the road.
“It was horrendous,” said eye witness Martin Colley. “It was coming from the hills and just flowing across the roads in waves.”
Richard Bruce, who lives opposite Darley Mill, said it was the worst flooding in more than 50 years.
“It was the speed of the water rising, caused by a cloudburst on already saturated ground,” he said.
“The water rose so quickly that the volume of water from Darley Beck and the surrounding hills was too great to go under the bridge.
“In about 15 minutes, the entrance (to Darley Mill) became a raging torrent and some visitors had to leave their vehicles in the car park.”
At Darley Beck, the River Nidd burst its banks, sweeping away the footbridge with the force of the flow.
The bridge now lies at the bottom of the beck, after the whole structure was lifted off its fixings. Parts of Summerbidge were hit with “waves of water” coming down from the hills.
Mr Colley had been forced to turn back as he tried to drive towards Pateley Bridge at around 5pm.
“The front of my grill had leaves on it so it must have reached 2ft,” he said.
“A lot of the road was just covered in water, 100yds wide at some points.”
He said the road was covered in debris from the hills and drivers were pulling over to the side of the road.
“I think people were just frightened to risk it,” he said. “I followed in the wake of a tractor but I ended up turning back.”
On Twitter, Jez Dyke (@Dubtricks) said he had tried to get to the shop in Summerbridge: “Never seen flooding like it – the high street is a river and cricket ground is 2ft under water!”
Further afield, firefighters had to rescue 300 sheep and lambs who were left trapped on a hill by the rising flood waters upstream of Middleham bridge.
They were stranded on an island by fast flowing water from the River Ure and an inflatable walkway was set up to reach the sheep.
Rising river levels meant fire crews had to abandon this tactic and instead, a safe route was set up for a tractor and a trailer which carried the sheep to safety.