THE nightmare before Christmas is how flood victims in Port Clarence described being evacuated from their homes and then returning to scenes of devastation following a freak storm surge, on December 5, 2013.

As the major clean-up operation began in the remote Stockton village, on the banks of the River Tees, its stunned residents were left reeling from the shock of the river breaking its banks.

Decorations on the ceiling were the only giveaway that Christmas was less than three weeks away in Vikki Watson's house in Laburnum Grove, a street that was still 2ft underwater hours after the high tide and was left covered in worms.

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She managed to get presents safely upstairs and pile as much furniture up off the floor as she could before her family was evacuated along with 147 other households to the Billingham Forum by emergency services at about 5pm on Thursday, December 5, 2013.

"Within seconds, there was water coming in the back garden and up the street and then the power went off, so I had to pack bags in the dark," she said.

"We decided to come home late last night, but I've been up since 5am in case the high tide caused another flood. Every single knock or noise made me jump – it has been a nightmare."

Evergreen Charlie Donaghy was crowned the Local Hero of 2013 for his lifelong commitment to grassroots sport in the North-East, on December 6, 2013.

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Charlie, 77, of Tow Law, County Durham, was the overall winner at the end of The Northern Echo's celebration of grassroots sport.

The judges could not resist the story of how Charlie had kept a number of leagues operating by working round-the-clock as a fixture secretary, results organiser, administrator, press officer and committee organiser.

His dedication covers a range of sports, including snooker, darts, pool, dominoes, quoits and bowls.

He once even carried on working from his hospital bed after falling ill.

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Twin brothers Andrew Michael King were celebrating in December 2013 after passing their driving tests on the same day.

The then-17-year-olds, from Spennymoor, County Durham, passed in Durham City on Tuesday on their first attempt, after just four months of lessons.

Instructor Louise Smith, of Bowburn, said it was a first in her 17-year career. "I have had twins pass before but I have never had twins pass on the same day."