On the Sunday before the flood fears as to the safety of
the reservoir were expressed, and attempts were made to work
the valves for ejecting the too fast accumulating water, but
these were found to be out of order, and would not work, although,
during the previous three years, about £1,500 had been spent
to remedy the defect.
At six o’clock on Wednesday evening, the 4th of
February, the water had risen to within eight feet of the
top of the embankment; at nine o’clock it was only two feet,
and at midnight it had washed over; at first gently, but at
the same time it was noticed that a current had made its way
under the embankment, in the very bed of the river, the place
which had been considered unsafe, and which had received the
repairs before spoken of.
At this time, it was estimated that the quantity of water
in the reservoir would not be less than eighty-six millions
two hundred and forty thousand gallons, or the enormous and
fearful amount of three hundred thousand tons in weight.
The insecurity of the reservoir was thoroughly understood
in the valley, and there were those who did not hesitate to
say that during some heavy pressure on its embankment the
latter would give way.
Still, the cry of “Wolf! Wolf!” had been so often heard that
on the night of February 4th most of the residents
had gone to sleep without any dread, whilst others had removed
their families, furniture and effects to a place of safety.
Some who lived all but under the embankment were hardly convinced
of the nearness of the catastrophe when it was close at hand,
and narrowly escaped the death which befell those who lived
a mile or two down the valley.
Two men from Holmfirth, paid a visit to it in the evening,
but on their return they gave no alarm, and retired to rest
in their accustomed security.
Those, however, who had the reservoir in charge, and a few
others also, were more alive to their peril and that of their
friends and neighbours.
On the hills at midnight a few scattered figures stood watching
in the brilliant moonlight the wind-beaten waters rush over
the top of the reservoir, their terror and their concern for
the slumbering thousands away down in the valley rapidly increasing.