Hospitality operators in Cumbria are counting the costs of having to close during one of their busiest times of the year following the devastating impact of torrential rainstorms that have swept the north of England.
Six years after the county was ravaged by floods, involving around £276m in clean-up costs, hundreds of businesses - including many hotels, restaurants and pubs - are once again facing extended closures and millions of pounds worth of insurance claims.
Storm Desmond, which resulted in England's wettest day on record with rainfall of 341.4mm, hit at a time when Cumbria's hotels and restaurants were packed with winter weddings, Christmas shopping trips and festive parties.
The economic cost to the region is immense and Cumbria Tourism is calling on the government to immediately come to the rescue of businesses to enable the county's £2.44b tourism industry to get back on its feet in the coming weeks and months. During the 2009 flood, 72% of hospitality businesses were affected, either directly or indirectly, with loss of booking through cancellations and closures amounting to £2.5m.
Ian Stephens, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, said that it while it was too early to assess the extent of the damage at this time, he urged the government to provide the same kind of business recovery package and major marketing campaign to help the south west tourism sector to trade normally again following floods to the region in 2014.
"This kind of support will be needed for Cumbria and the Lake District and will be vital to reassure visitors about Christmas and in the longer term," he explained. "Cumbria Tourism has a great deal of experience in dealing with such crises and played a key role in the business recovery after the 2009 floods and foot and mouth outbreak in 2001."
Six years after flood waters poured into the four-AA-star, 49-bedroom Trout hotel in Cockermouth - closing the property for seven months, resulting in an insurance claim of nearly £5m - the property has become a victim of the extreme weather once again. Located close to where the rivers Derwent and Cocker converge, the impact has once again been catastrophic.
Sue Eccles, managing director of the Trout, said that despite the Derwent bursting its banks on Saturday afternoon, she still hoped that damage could be kept to a minimum. However, the flood gates, installed by the Environment Agency following the 2009 floods, collapsed, resulting in flood waters rising to three and a half feet within the hotel. Twenty guests remained safe upstairs until they were evacuated on Monday morning.
"It is devastating for this to happen again," she said. "I am yet to meet with the insurance company, but I wouldn't be surprised if we weren't looking at a similar claim as before. We will be closed once again for many months as it is going to take a very long time for the building to dry out."
Meanwhile, two-Michelin-starred restaurant L'Enclume in Cartmel suffered an estimated £50,000 worth of damage after flood waters rose one and a half feet, according to chef-owner Simon Rogan.
Sandbags placed at the doors of the 16th-century restaurant with rooms failed to prevent flooding, with several bedrooms and the reception area affected. Dinner service was cancelled on Saturday evening and all day Sunday.
However, the site escaped further damage, thanks to it being scheduled for renovation and painting this week, with painters having already moved in to begin work.
Also impacted was the 78-bedroom, four-AA- star Daffodil hotel and spa on the banks of Grasmere, which is owned by Mark Brady. The reception, conference rooms, spa, and staff offices were all flooded, while the hotel's telephone lines were also affected. Guests were helped to leave as soon as it was safe to do so, and all affected bookings were given full refunds.
Julia Darroch, from Lakes PR at the Daffodil, said the damage was being assessed and it was not yet known when the hotel would reopen.
Darroch also had her own personal memories of the 2009 floods, which had been brought back into relief by the new situation. She added: "Some businesses in Keswick and Cockermouth were only just getting back to normal in the past 12 to 18 months after the floods six years ago, so for it to happen again it's just like a bad nightmare come back to haunt you."