7th March 2020

Environment West Midlands floods: ‘Ten days of difficult conditions’ to come

Environment West Midlands floods: ‘Ten days of difficult conditions’ to come

Environment

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Media caption“There was a massive bang, then the barriers were coming towards the house”, one woman said

“Another 10 days of difficult conditions” have been predicted for parts of the Midlands devastated by flooding.

There are fears Shropshire and Worcestershire, where evacuations have been taking place, will be further affected following heavy rain in Wales.

On Wednesday, barriers holding back the River Severn at Ironbridge buckled and water seeped underneath.

Storm Jorge, due to hit at the weekend, spells more disruption for the region.

Up to 70 properties in Snaith, East Yorkshire, were also flooded.

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Storm Jorge could spell further flooding for communities

The Met Office has warned parts of Wales and northern England could see between 60 to 80mm of rain on Friday – with much of the rainfall in Wales falling into the Severn catchment and heading towards flood-hit communities in the West Midlands.

The Met Office’s chief meteorologist Paul Gundersen said further flooding was possible as rain was forecast to fall on already-saturated ground.

The Environment Agency has estimated that up to 500 tonnes of water a second are coursing past Ironbridge’s flood defences.

Deputy Chief Constable Julian Moss, from West Mercia Police, told a press conference on Wednesday evening the force anticipated its presence on the ground would “continue for the next 10 days” at least.

He said emergency crews also remain on the ground in many places, as more wet weather was forecast.

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Residents in Ironbridge were evacuated from their homes

Overnight on Tuesday, while the main flood defences in Bewdley, Worcestershire, stood firm, a swollen River Severn came over the top of those in the Beales Corner area of town.

About 40 properties were either flooded or at risk and on Wednesday some residents were rescued on a fire service dinghy, although 12 people chose to stay in their homes.

In Ironbridge, Shropshire, 35 homes were evacuated as an emergency measure when a flood barrier buckled and water seeped underneath.

Parts of neighbouring Shrewsbury have been underwater for the past three days, while swathes of Worcestershire flooded last week in the wake of Storm Dennis.

A severe flood warning – meaning danger to life – remains in place for the Wharfage area of Ironbridge.

River levels have since dropped by about 40cm in the town and are also down by 80cm in Shrewsbury.

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Bewdley was flooded on Tuesday night

Maurice Bradley has been staying at a hotel for the past three days after he was evacuated from his flooded home in Shrewsbury.

The 83-year-old said repairs would cost him “at least ¬£5,000” but he was remaining positive.

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Media captionShrewsbury flooding: B&B Darwin’s Townhouse reopens

“Sometimes things are sent to test you out,” he said.

“Flooding is one of them.”

Rachel Moss runs a hairdressing salon in the Coleham area of the town and said people “need some action”.

“We’ve been hit twice in a week, there’s still rumours it could get worse this weekend,” she said.

“If it does, it will absolutely devastate this community.”

Several road closures have been put in place due to the flooding. Telford and Wrekin Council reported that staff were being abused by some motorists.

It urged drivers to “please be respectful to our staff”, who it said were working in “very difficult circumstances”.

Elsewhere:

  • River levels peaked overnight in Worcester at just under six metres and the city’s main bridge has been closed.
  • Levels are being monitored at Upton-upon-Severn and settlements below that, including Tewkesbury.
  • Villagers in Snaith, East Yorkshire, have criticised authorities for failing to give them enough time to save their possessions from floodwater.

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Water levels were receding in Ironbridge on Thursday morning

Chris Bainger, from the Environment Agency, said: “We have a bit of respite, we’ve just got showers moving through over the next couple of days.

“But coming into Friday we have another band of rain coming through that’s going to be up in the Welsh mountains and that’s going to be coming to us… perhaps Saturday.

“We’ve already planned another 10 days of being on 24/7 manning of our incident rooms and having operational staff at all of our barriers.”

The damage to the barriers at Ironbridge will be investigated over the next couple of days and the Environment Agency will aim to repair or replace damaged panels ahead of the weekend.

Environment Why did the barriers buckle?

Permanent flood defences are not a feasible option in a place like Ironbridge – its special historical and scientific significance means that temporary barriers are a better alternative.

The barriers – A-frame posts lined with sheets of metal and a plastic covering that are weighed down with sandbags – are not fixed to the ground.

They are susceptible to movement, however, movement like that seen in Ironbridge was “unprecedented,” said Nick Green, from the Environment Agency.

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Temporary flood defences like these have “protected thousands of homes,” Mr Green said

The Severn did not come over the top of the barriers but it came very close, and this, combined with the sheer weight of the eddying river, pushed some defences back up to two metres.

“It also depends on the level of the surface they’re placed on to,” Mr Green said.

“They do follow topography, so you will get low points.”

It was at the lowest point of the Beales Corner defences where water came over the top on Tuesday night, he said.

The defences in the Wharfage also follow the line of a hill, meaning that some of the barriers could not be placed completely flat. This affected the strength of the inlaid metal slats, which work best when they are perfectly horizontal.

Mr Green said about five sections of the Ironbridge defences were pushed back due to the force of the water. These will be assessed for damage and replaced if necessary once the river subsides – in time for further rain forecast for the weekend.

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The River Severn has flooded in Shrewsbury

Shropshire Council said it would need to inspect 30 bridges across the county for damage caused by the floods.

Structural engineers have been deployed to Coalport Bridge where the force of the Severn has caused damage to brickwork.

Tim Smith, from the council, said the damage was not “a significant risk” but a weight limit had been put in place before it could be properly investigated once the waters have subsided.

Environment Secretary George Eustice is due to visit areas in Shropshire that have been affected by the floods in the place of junior minister Rebecca Pow, whose visit was cancelled because of sickness.

Boris Johnson was accused of “hiding” following the flooding crisis on Wednesday, however, the prime minister said the government was working “flat out” to help people.

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