On Boxing Day 2015, between Storm Eva and Storm Frank, the rivers and waterways around my home in Bailiff Bridge started to creep upwards…
Thornhills Beck, flows downstream past my home, on the Western slopes of Hartshead Moor.
I love that I have to drive through Clifton Beck to get to Hartshead Moor and the hills behind my house in Bailiff Bridge. I often joke that this is also the part where my Bond-like car momentarily turns into a speedboat and back again.
It makes no sense to put a bridge over the beck, though fast flowing, the water only rises to a few inches, shallow enough to cycle through but lotsa fun to drive through.
On Boxing Day 2015, I had a couple friends over for lunch… as much as I impressed them with a home-baked Parmagiana Melanzane, everyone seemed a little distracted by their phones as we tore through Shanaz's pistachio and rosewater cake.
It turns out they were seeing photos from neighbours near their homes in Keighley, as the waters rise of the River Aire climbed up over the river banks.
My guests hightailed it home, while I want over to spend the evening at my parents…
I left my parents a few hours later, learning that the centre of Brighouse was being closed to traffic as the River Calder also threatened to burst its banks.
Of course, my curiosity led me into town… shortly before it killed the cat!
Coming back home, I decided to cut through the beck, thinking it'd be even *more* fun to sploosh though the water, now it was more than a few inches deep!
Turns out, the 3-4 metres across the beck were now about a foot deep and high enough for the *very* low air intake on my BMW to suck up water into the engine's cylinders… "The Beast" as I like to call it sputtered out right in the middle of the beck, with the water now at the level of the doors!
Unable to restart the engine, I grabbed any valuables in the car… climbed out into the beck, tentatively checking to see whether I could stand in the water without being swept downstream!
As I waded back to the bank I noticed a police warning sign that'd been blown over in the road - "Warning: Road Closed" - doh!
I called the police to let them know that though I was safe, the car might be a hazard for anyone coming the other way… or if the waters rose further, 2 tonnes of German automotive engineering suddenly floating off down into the middle of town.
I called my cousin Fozia for a ride home to get into some dry clothes… she was desperate to share photos of my stupidity on Facebook, but I asked her with desperation of my own to hold off for now…
I managed to call the AA who despatched a recovery truck, noting that with flooding up and down the valley it might be a few hours before they were able arrive. I just needed to know if I could reverse my embarrassment before daylight and passers-by started to Insta-document my midnight mistake.
The recovery driver took one look at my car and told me it'd be a write off - he'd done enough of these salvages to know when something wouldn't be repairable.
We spent an hour or two wading around in 2-3 feet of water, winching the car onto the trailer bed, before he drove my now mortal motor and I home.
He explained that starting the car after the cylinders were flooded with water would have "hydrolocked" the engine and bent the connecting rods for each cylinder. Though repairable I'd find small problems, niggles (and smells) for months to come.
On Monday morning, I managed to get my car towed to the garage where my cousin Ali works his mechanical magic.
Within a few hours, he'd managed to dry out the air intake, replace the spark plugs and air filter and saw that the 'conrods' were actually working just fine.
I got lucky, though I'd called my insurance company to tell them the car was likely a write off, Ali did indeed save The Beast …
I've read that hydrolock most commonly occurs in when driving through floods, either where the water is above the level of the air intake or the vehicle's speed is excessive. It doesn't mention that it can also occurs when stupidity is above the level of safety or the driver's bravado is excessive…
The valley, the town, my car were all hydrolocked to some degree… we all made it and came through a little wiser and respectful of the waterways around us.