A DEVASTATING flood, a fatality, tales of heroism, widespread media coverage, appeals for help, massive clear-up costs and public donations to help those affected.

This is what happened last October when Storm Callum struck.

Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion were particularly badly affected, with more than six inches of rain recorded in some areas in just 24 hours.

Tragically, 21-year-old Corey Sharpling from Newcastle Emlyn died in a landslide at Cwmduad as the storm peaked.

In the aftermath of the storm, the two county councils and Natural Resources Wales (NRW), among others, were praised for their response as were local communities which rallied round to help those affected.

But Carmarthenshire’s leader Emlyn Dole was strongly critical, at the time, of former First Minister Carwyn Jones’s answer to an appeal for financial support.

“His response was not one I expected from somebody in his position,” said Cllr Dole in November.

Relations were restored when the Welsh Government agreed to fund up to £6 million of Storm Callum clean-up and repair costs.

The storm has re-opened a debate about who should pay such costs, especially as more extreme weather events are consistent with climate change projections for Wales and the UK.

It has also shed further light on how communities, who may struggle with the issue of climate change, react to a particular crisis.

When contacted by the Local Democracy Service, the Met Office’s head of the national climate information centre, Dr Mark McCarthy, said nobody had formally attributed Storm Callum to climate change to his knowledge.

Every storm, he said, was unique – and the UK had a stormy climate at times.

But he added: “One expected consequence of climate change is that a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour and is expected to be associated with increased rainfall intensity during extreme events.”

Ground conditions and land management can also compound or lessen the effect of a deluge.

So, did the bone-dry conditions which preceded Storm Callum last summer play a role?

An NRW spokesman said the hard dry ground at the time “was probably a small contributing factor” to the way whole river catchments responded. The main factor, he said, was the sheer volume of rain.

Six months on, Carmarthenshire Council is out of pocket to some extent after providing affected businesses and householders relief fund money.

“We have a duty of care to Carmarthenshire’s residents and businesses, so these funds were provided by the council,” said Cllr Dole. “We are not expecting any recompense.”

The Plaid Cymru leader reiterated his gratitude to Cardiff Bay for its £3.1 million towards clear-up and repair costs in Carmarthenshire, but added: “I believe the Welsh Government should have a contingency fund in place to cater for damage caused by all events of this kind across the country.

“That would help give local authorities certainty that financial assistance will always be available for extensive repair works, which is especially important at a time when austerity means council resources are limited.

“This shouldn’t excuse local authorities from their duty of care, but it would be a relief if such a fund was in place as we have no way of knowing when or where the next emergency will happen.”

In February, Carmarthenshire councillors declared a climate emergency, and said the authority should be “zero carbon” by 2030.

Ceredigion Council said it incurred £145,000 costs in the immediate aftermath of the storm, and estimated infrastructure repairs at £725,000. It also said it was very grateful to the Welsh Government for paying back costs claimed by the authority.

Asked who was responsible for bearing such emergency costs, a Welsh Government spokeswoman said councils had a statutory role and are required to plan accordingly.

She said insurance companies had their responsibilities, but that there was also an emergency financial assistance scheme for councils in Wales.

“It is a discretionary scheme, which may be activated to give special assistance to local authorities that would otherwise be faced with an undue financial burden of providing relief and carrying out immediate work due to large-scale emergencies including severe weather,” she said.

Speaking in the Senedd after Storm Callum, the then Minister for Environment, Hannah Blythyn, said she had witnessed the devastation first hand.

“During the peak period of this event, NRW had issued 40 flood warnings,” she said.

“This had a massive impact on our rivers, with some recording their highest levels on record, and, in many places, drainage systems were overwhelmed.

“I recognise the importance of adapting to our changing and challenging climate, which is why flood risk management remains one of my priorities.”

Nick Pidgeon, professor of environmental psychology at Cardiff University, said events such as Storm Callum represented a concrete and immediate threat for communities.

Asked why it could feel so much harder to respond to climate change, he said: “In part because it is ‘psychologically distant’ – traditionally affecting other people, places and times, albeit this is now changing.

“Secondly it challenges some of our fundamental activities and identities – we need to travel less, eat differently, have less direct contact with distant friends and families.

“Some of these are very difficult for us to give up.”

Last October, the UN’s climate change body warned that average pre-industrial temperatures rises of 1.5C could be exceeded by 2030 without accelerated action to combat the problem – and that the effects of a 1.5C rise were worse than previously thought.

Professor Pidgeon added: “Humans are only a part of the solution. To meet the ambitious Paris (climate change) targets we will need major infrastructure/technology change, plus major change to our lifestyles.”