UK weather: River Severn rises to all-time high devastating towns and villages

Residents in areas of Shropshire were urged to evacuate today as the River Severn rose to all-time high levels amid severe flooding after more than 400 tonnes of water per second rushed down towards Shrewsbury.

Large parts of the county are already underwater, with many access roads closed, and things could get worse with the river due to peak tonight amid further heavy rain in the Welsh mountains over the next 48 hours.

In Ironbridge, the Severn could breach flood defences, with Telford and Wrekin Council and West Mercia Police urging affected residents to get out of their homes and take up the council’s offer of accommodation. 

Rain is expected for much of the UK today, along with 50mph gusts in the South West, while the Environment Agency has imposed more than 300 alerts or warnings across England as the flooding risk continues.

The Severn at Montford was at 23ft (7m) by 2pm today, beating the highest recorded level set in November 2000, while a prolonged peak at Welsh Bridge in Shrewsbury of up to 5.5m (18ft) is predicted this evening. 

Two severe ‘danger to life’ flood warnings have been issued for Shrewsbury and Ironbridge, while there is severe weather of a different kind in the North and Scotland where the Met Office has issued an ice and snow warning.

The alert – which also covers Wales – runs from 8pm tonight until 10am tomorrow and warns of 3.1in (8cm) of the white stuff on higher ground, with wintry showers expected to fall as a mixture of rain, hail and snow. 

Most showers will tend to ease by tomorrow evening, while Thursday will be dry with sunny spells for most areas along with some wintry showers – while Friday will be grey with patchy rain for many, especially in the South. 

Meanwhile most of South London and East Surrey has been put under a flood alert by the Environment Agency due to groundwater levels rising throughout the winter following higher than average rainfall.

The EA, which is monitoring the situation with local councils, said properties with deep basements in some parts of Purley ‘will start flooding imminently’ and warned more rainfall could cause groundwater levels to rise further.

The River Severn remains extremely high in Shropshire today, as it flows under the historic bridge in Ironbridge today

The River Severn remains extremely high in Shropshire today, as it flows under the historic bridge in Ironbridge today

The Iron Bridge in the Shropshire town is pictured in September 2014 when the River Severn was at a more normal level

The Iron Bridge in the Shropshire town is pictured in September 2014 when the River Severn was at a more normal level

 

Thousands of residents living near the Severn have been warned to expect yet more flooding, with a 100-mile stretch of the river now issued with flood warnings

Thousands of residents living near the Severn have been warned to expect yet more flooding, with a 100-mile stretch of the river now issued with flood warnings

In Ironbridge, the Severn could breach flood defences tonight, which have been put up on the side of the river

In Ironbridge, the Severn could breach flood defences tonight, which have been put up on the side of the river

Temporary flood barriers on the Wharfage in Ironbridge, Shropshire, today as the River Severn remains high

Temporary flood barriers on the Wharfage in Ironbridge, Shropshire, today as the River Severn remains high

A bridge over the River Severn is almost underwater in Shrewsbury today as the Shropshire today faces severe flooding

A bridge over the River Severn is almost underwater in Shrewsbury today as the Shropshire today faces severe flooding

A woman looks out at flooding around a property in Ironbridge, Shropshire, today which has sandbags by the door

A woman looks out at flooding around a property in Ironbridge, Shropshire, today which has sandbags by the door

Temporary flood barriers on the Wharfage in Ironbridge, Shropshire, as the River Severn remains high today

Temporary flood barriers on the Wharfage in Ironbridge, Shropshire, as the River Severn remains high today

An aerial view of flooding in Shrewsbury this morning where the River Severn is still rising and threatening further disruption

An aerial view of flooding in Shrewsbury this morning where the River Severn is still rising and threatening further disruption

Flooding in Ironbridge, Shropshire, today with the River Severn's level at some points expected to peak tonight

Flooding in Ironbridge, Shropshire, today with the River Severn’s level at some points expected to peak tonight

Temporary flood barriers installed in Ironbridge, Shropshire, today, as there are fears that the river could breach them

Temporary flood barriers installed in Ironbridge, Shropshire, today, as there are fears that the river could breach them

Flooding at the Riverside Caravan Park in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, today as the River Severn hits a record high level

Flooding at the Riverside Caravan Park in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, today as the River Severn hits a record high level

Flooding is also affecting properties in the nearby Shropshire town of Ironbridge today as the River Severn remains high

Flooding is also affecting properties in the nearby Shropshire town of Ironbridge today as the River Severn remains high

Thousands of residents living near the Severn have been warned to expect yet more flooding, with a 100-mile stretch of the river now issued with flood warnings

Local EA manager Dave Throup said the situation was ‘getting ridiculous.’ He added: ‘The UK’s longest river is absolutely heaving. From Newtown in Wales to Gloucester the whole length of the Severn is on flood warning.

River levels on parts of Severn at all-time record

Parts of the River Severn are now at their highest level on record – with others not far off the all-time high, according to the latest Environment Agency data.

The Severn at Montford was at 7m (23ft) by 2pm today, beating the highest recorded level set in November 2000

At Welsh Bridge in Shrewsbury, the Severn stood at 5.07m (16.6ft) at 12.45pm today – just below the all-time record of 5.25m (17.2ft), set on November 1 2000.

The level has nearly doubled in the last 72 hours, jumping from 2.80m (9.2ft) at lunchtime on February 22.

It is forecast to peak this afternoon – possibly just below the record – before falling over the next 24 hours.

Along the river at Buildwas, which is just upstream from Ironbridge, the Severn had reached 6.66m (21.9ft) at 1pm today, slightly below the record for that stretch of 7.04m (23.1ft).

And in Bridgnorth, the Severn stood at 5.08m (16.7ft) at 1pm, close to its all-time record there of 5.26m (17.3ft).

Both of these records were set on November 2, 2000.

Further downstream at Bewdley, the Severn had reached 5.21m (17.1ft) at 1.30pm on Tuesday and is forecast to rise higher in the next 24 hours, coming very close to the all-time record of 5.56m (18.2ft).

Again, this record was set on November 2, 2000.

Meanwhile at Saxons Lode near Upton upon Severn, where a ‘danger to life’ severe flood warning was in place a few days ago, the level had been dropping until Monday night.

It has since started to rise and measured 5.13m (16.8ft) at 1pm today – although this is some way below the all-time record of 5.93m (19.5ft), which was set on July 22, 2007.

‘There are exceptionally high levels and flows resulting in dangerous conditions in many areas. Severe flood impacts are expected on Wednesday. We are seeing historic levels and there are significant problems in Shrewsbury.’

In Shrewsbury many schools and businesses have closed, including the town’s three shopping centres after the underground car parks flooded.

More than 40 homes were evacuated while others were rescued by firefighters after water started entering their homes.

In Ironbridge, 40 people were evacuated and police warned there was a ‘strong chance’ the temporary flood barriers would be breached.

West Mercia Police Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said: ‘The levels of the river in Ironbridge are set to rise to unprecedented levels with a strong chance they could overtop the temporary flood barriers.

‘Our absolute priority is the safety of local residents and we would strongly advise those who live in the affected area to evacuate, we know people don’t want to leave their homes but we are only giving this advice as we believe it is absolutely necessary.

‘We are working very closely with our emergency response partners to ensure plans are in place should the water overtop the barrier however at the moment we don’t know what impact that will have but my warning is we may be in a position where we can’t rescue residents who don’t leave their home.’

Elsewhere, the mercury dropped to -4.5C (23.9F) at the Cairnwell in the Highlands overnight. Met Office forecaster John Griffiths said: ‘A couple of places could be a bit colder in the next few hours, but only by a degree or so.’

Significant snowfalls were also recorded overnight, with Aviemore in Scotland recording 2.8in (7cm) and Northern Ireland’s Lough Fea getting 1.2in (3cm).

Higher areas in both countries and in northern England will continue to receive snow today, Mr Griffiths said. He warned snow and wintry showers would make it ‘a bit difficult for people’ on their morning commute. 

A series of Environment Agency flood alerts (in amber) and warnings (in red) are in place along the River Severn today

A series of Environment Agency flood alerts (in amber) and warnings (in red) are in place along the River Severn today

The Severn at Montford was at 23ft (7.01m) by 10am today, beating the highest recorded level set in November 2000

The Severn at Montford was at 23ft (7.01m) by 10am today, beating the highest recorded level set in November 2000

Most of South London and East Surrey has been put under a flood alert by the Environment Agency due to groundwater levels rising throughout the winter following higher than average rainfall

Most of South London and East Surrey has been put under a flood alert by the Environment Agency due to groundwater levels rising throughout the winter following higher than average rainfall

Two severe 'danger to life' flood warnings (in red) have been issued by the Environment Agency. A further 110 flood warnings (also red) - where flooding is expected - and 200 flood alerts (amber) - where flooding is possible - are in place across England

Two severe ‘danger to life’ flood warnings (in red) have been issued by the Environment Agency. A further 110 flood warnings (also red) – where flooding is expected – and 200 flood alerts (amber) – where flooding is possible – are in place across England

Today's forecast Tomorrow's forecast

Further sleet and snow is expected in some areas today (left), and again tomorrow with rain also expected to fall (right)

Thursday's forecast Friday's forecast

Conditions on Thursday (left) and Friday (right) will again be wet, although temperatures will rise towards the weekend

The temperature in London was predicted to hover around 6C (43F) most of the day, while the South East experiences slightly warmer temperatures.

The Met Office has imposed a further snow and ice warning for Scotland and Northern England tonight, as well as an ice warning for southern England tomorrow (both above)

The Met Office has imposed a further snow and ice warning for Scotland and Northern England tonight, as well as an ice warning for southern England tomorrow (both above)

Higher regions will be colder, Mr Griffiths said, adding that the temperature would ‘obviously feel a lot colder with the strength of the wind later on’.

Showers are expected for much of the UK throughout today, along with gusts of 40mph to 50mph on the South West coast. Further inland, wind speeds are forecast to drop to 30mph to 40mph. 

Business owners in Shrewsbury criticised the local council and Environment Agency over a lack of help and information. 

Mike Evans, of Evans Carpets, said he had been told that the council had run out of sandbags. ‘We’ve had nothing – no help or assistance whatsoever. We haven’t seen anyone from the council or the Environment Agency,’ he said.

Mark Davies, 59, who runs Darwin’s Townhouse B&B in Shrewsbury, said he had suffered thousands of pounds of damage and had been unable to obtain insurance.

Asked about the Prime Minister’s absence in the crisis, he said: ‘Boris Johnson should make some sort of nod to acknowledge all the devastation.’ 

No 10 yesterday defended Mr Johnson’s absence from flooded areas, saying it was important not to ‘distract’ attention from the relief effort, and that Environment Secretary George Eustice was ‘rightly’ leading the Government’s response. 

An aerial view of the Shropshire town of Ironbridge where the River Severn is set to peak around 7pm tonight

An aerial view of the Shropshire town of Ironbridge where the River Severn is set to peak around 7pm tonight

An aerial view of flooding in Shrewsbury today where the River Severn is still rising and a severe flood warning is in place

An aerial view of flooding in Shrewsbury today where the River Severn is still rising and a severe flood warning is in place

The River Severn is set to peak around 7pm tonight, with the residents of Ironbridge on high alert

The River Severn is set to peak around 7pm tonight, with the residents of Ironbridge on high alert

An aerial view of flooding in Atcham near Shrewsbury today where the River Severn is still rising and flooding the roads

An aerial view of flooding in Atcham near Shrewsbury today where the River Severn is still rising and flooding the roads

Temporary flood barriers have been installed to property homes and businesses in Ironbridge, pictured this morning

Temporary flood barriers have been installed to property homes and businesses in Ironbridge, pictured this morning

In Shrewsbury, pictured today, the three main shopping centres of Darwin, Pride Hill and Riverside have been shut for safety

In Shrewsbury, pictured today, the three main shopping centres of Darwin, Pride Hill and Riverside have been shut for safety

Ironbridge resident Vic Haddock surveys flooding around his property in Shropshire today on the banks of the River Severn

Ironbridge resident Vic Haddock surveys flooding around his property in Shropshire today on the banks of the River Severn

An aerial view of Ironbridge in Shropshire today where the River Severn is set to peak this evening

An aerial view of Ironbridge in Shropshire today where the River Severn is set to peak this evening

An aerial view of flooding in Atcham near Shrewsbury today where the River Severn is still rising and causing chaos

An aerial view of flooding in Atcham near Shrewsbury today where the River Severn is still rising and causing chaos

Vic Haddock's boathouse in Ironbridge, Shropshire, is partially submerged as the River Severn remains high this morning

Vic Haddock’s boathouse in Ironbridge, Shropshire, is partially submerged as the River Severn remains high this morning

A vehicle drives along a flooded road today in Atcham near Shrewsbury where the River Severn is still rising

A vehicle drives along a flooded road today in Atcham near Shrewsbury where the River Severn is still rising

Severe flooding in Atcham near Shrewsbury is pictured today as the level of the River Severn continues to rise

Severe flooding in Atcham near Shrewsbury is pictured today as the level of the River Severn continues to rise

Waves crash onto rocks near to St Mary's Lighthouse in Whitley Bay on the North East coast this morning

Waves crash onto rocks near to St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay on the North East coast this morning

But David Bickle, 57, whose ground-floor flat in Shrewsbury was under a foot of water last night, criticised the Prime Minister’s excuses, saying: ‘What relief effort? There is no one helping us for him to disturb.’

‘Stop building houses on flood plains’, warns boss of Environment Agency

Houses should not be built on flood plains unless there is ‘no real alternative’, the head of the Environment Agency will warn today.

Sir James Bevan will say that tackling the risk of flooding needs a twin-track approach.

He will tell the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit in London: ‘First, we must continue to do what we have been doing for some years: building and maintaining strong defences. 

‘But… we now need a second, parallel, track: making communities more resilient to flooding so that when it does happen it poses much less risk to people, does much less damage, and life can get back to normal much quicker. The best way to defuse the weather bomb is better protection and stronger resilience.’

Shropshire Council insisted last night that it has not run out of sandbags. A spokesman said: ‘Any residents or businesses requiring sandbags are asked to contact the council and we will supply them.’  

In Scotland yesterday, many higher routes faced white-out conditions, especially the A68 at Carter Bar, Roxburghshire, the A82 at Altnafeadh, Inverness-shire, and higher stretches of the A9.

The snow gates were closed on the B974 at Glen Dye in Aberdeenshire. In West Lothian, experts spent the day examining the roof of Livingston’s court complex, where gale force gusts tore a sheet of metal from the roof. 

Conditions were also particularly bad in North Yorkshire and County Durham, with major problems on the A1M and A19 roads. The A66 trans-Pennine route was closed for much of the day.

The A68 near West Auckland, County Durham, was closed following a crash between a car and lorry in snow.

The snow and flooding caused further severe disruption on the M606 in West Yorkshire and the A58 in Leeds.

The chaotic start to the day meant dozens of schools were either closed or opened late on the first day back from the half term break.

B&B owner loses £40,000 after his business is flooded twice in a week after being told no one would insure him

By Miles Dilworth, Money Mail Reporter 

Mark Davies, who runs Darwin's Townhouse B&B in Shrewsbury

Mark Davies, who runs Darwin’s Townhouse B&B in Shrewsbury

A B&B owner has spoken of his devastation over losing around £40,000 in damages and loss of takings after his business was flooded twice in a week.

In a bitter blow, Mark Davies, who runs Darwin’s Townhouse B&B in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, had been told he could no longer get insurance flood cover just 12 days before the River Severn burst its banks last Tuesday.

Mr Davies, 59, said his broker had spoken to several insurance providers before the floods hit – but not a single one was willing to insure his business against flood damage. He said it would be months before his B&B is fully operational again following further flooding yesterday.

‘It’s been a double whammy,’ he said. ‘No one is touching this any more. It’s a crying shame really when you think of some of the businesses around here and the losses that could kill them.’

The entire basement of his guesthouse has been flooded, wrecking stores of linen and food, while ten of the 20 rooms at his B&B have been put out of action.

When asked what his message to the Prime Minister would be, he said: ‘Come down and say hello.

‘I would throw down that gauntlet. What are you going to do? I have had to pay a phenomenal amount in tax and rates and yet I’m seeing very little in return. 

‘My personal feeling on Boris Johnson is he should make some sort of nod to acknowledge all the devastation across the country that he is responsible for,’ he said.

Mr Davies had been told he could no longer get insurance flood cover just 12 days before the River Severn burst its banks last Tuesday

Mr Davies had been told he could no longer get insurance flood cover just 12 days before the River Severn burst its banks last Tuesday 

Bournemouth beach looks more like the Sahara desert after stormy weather displaced hundreds of tonnes of sand

A popular seaside resort has been left looking more like the Sahara desert after the recent storms displaced hundreds of tonnes of sand.

Scores of large sand dunes have appeared on the beach and promenade in Bournemouth, Dorset, in the wake of Storms Ciara and Dennis.

Some of the huge mounds measure over 10ft tall. The local council is deploying specialist machinery to replenish the famous beach.

Bournemouth has been battered by storm weather this month, creating a number of enormous dunes on the promenade

Bournemouth has been battered by storm weather this month, creating a number of enormous dunes on the promenade

Bulldozers are seen at the Dorset coast in Bournemouth today flattening the piles and shovelling the sand back into place

Bulldozers are seen at the Dorset coast in Bournemouth today flattening the piles and shovelling the sand back into place

Bulldozers were today seen at the coastal beauty spot flattening the piles and shovelling the sand back into place.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council say the work is ongoing and have warned people to stay away while the machinery is there.

A spokesman said: ‘Our seafront team has been working hard to clear the high amount of sand on the promenade following recent storms.

‘We’ve had to bring in extra resources and the bulldozers they’re using are not standard kit. We would ask people to be mindful of the machinery and stay clear whilst they work.’

Lighthouse dating back 230 years will be demolished after falling victim to storms Ciara and Dennis

One of Britain’s last historic lighthouses is to be demolished after falling victim to the powerful storms that rocked the country in recent weeks.

Storms Ciara and Dennis pounded the East Coast, causing erosion of beach that protects the 230-year-old redundant light tower on Orford Island in Suffolk, leaving it in imminent danger of collapsing into the sea.

Now the trust set up to save it seven years ago has admitted defeat and will spend its last £50,000 on its demolition – and hopes to sell off the bricks as souvenirs.

The lighthouse will not be rebuilt having already been decommissioned.

Erosion of beach that protects the Orford Island lighthouse in Suffolk has left it in imminent danger of collapsing into the sea

Erosion of beach that protects the Orford Island lighthouse in Suffolk has left it in imminent danger of collapsing into the sea

Recent storms have dramatically increased rate of erosion and now the 100ft-tall red and white tower.

Trust spokesman Nicholas Gold said today: ‘It became clear to us then that the long-avoided time had come to dismantle the lighthouse if there was to be any hope of preserving any of the artefacts.

‘We have now found suitable demolition company that could carry out the work and find a way forward with ten separate statutory bodies who all have an interest in the outcome of lighthouse’s fate and her immediate, highly-protected environment.

‘During that process East Suffolk Council decided that Orfordness lighthouse was now unsafe and ordered that it be taken down though we have long known this day would come. ‘

Some 11 years ago Trinity House decided that the lighthouse could not be maintained nor moved and instead decommissioned it saying the building would survive only a short while before it succumbed to the sea.

The Orfordness Lighthouse Trust was set up and took responsibility and committed itself to defend the lighthouse where it stood for as long as possible – and preserve the artefacts after that.

The trust set up to save the lighthouse seven years ago has admitted defeat and will spend its last £50,000 on its demolition

The trust set up to save the lighthouse seven years ago has admitted defeat and will spend its last £50,000 on its demolition

Mr Gold added: ‘We have enabled thousands of visitors to visit the lighthouse and learn about this iconic feature of the Suffolk coast. The lighthouse has been used as for concerts, music videos, television documentaries and even proposals of marriage.

‘We have had great fun sharing the building and the history of the lighthouse and we know it has brought interest and a lot of joy to many people.’

The trust added that it had negotiated an agreement with a demolition firm to carry out the work in a way that the will enable them to preserve key artefacts.

In the recent lull between storms Ciara and Dennis, specialist plant has already been taken onto the island to begin dismantling the building, initially to demolish the undermined oil-store and build up the beach in front.

Workmen have also prepared the beach to provide a stable platform for the crane that will take down the lantern room from the top of the lighthouse and then begin to take apart the rest of the building over the coming days.

But the announcement means there will be no more visits to the lighthouse. The trust said it had received many requests but now their only focus was the safe dismantling of the building and the preservation of the artefacts.

The demolition process will be filmed as a time-lapse video which will be made available after the operation is complete.

More than 1,000 homes confirmed to have flooded in Wales during recent storms 

More than 1,000 homes and hundreds of businesses in Wales were flooded in recent storms, the Welsh Government has confirmed.

Welsh Government minister Lesley Griffiths described the damage caused as ‘absolutely devastating’ for those affected and for ‘Wales as a nation’.

A number of flood warnings remain across the country, including on the River Severn, with Mrs Griffiths warning that the ‘threat of flooding’ had not yet passed.

The Assembly Member for Wrexham told a briefing in Cardiff Bay that the cost of the damage was expected to run into ‘tens of millions of pounds’, which the Welsh Government would not be able to fund.

Local authorities have confirmed than more than 1,000 homes were flooded, with unconfirmed reports of more than 300 businesses also affected, she said.

‘The number of properties that have been affected and the damage and losses caused over the last two weeks right across Wales have been absolutely devastating for the individuals and I think also for Wales as a nation,’ Mrs Griffiths said.

‘I came down from north to south Wales yesterday and to see the impact everywhere – it really, really hits you. These were very, very significant storm events, I think we have to recognise that. A month’s worth of rain fell in 24 hours.’

River levels in many places across Wales hit record or near-record levels in the wake of both Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis.

The River Taff, which caused devastation in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area of south Wales including the town of Pontypridd, was 80cm higher than during widespread flooding in 1979.

Mrs Griffiths said flood defences had meant more than 9,000 properties were protected from flooding on the River Taff alone, with a total of 73,000 homes across Wales protected.

On Monday, the Welsh Government announced that all households affected by flooding would receive £500, with an additional £500 available to those without house insurance cover.

First Minister Mark Drakeford and Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, chaired a meeting on coal tip safety following the recent storms.

‘They discussed having a database of where we know the tips are,’ Mrs Griffiths said. ‘We obviously know where those coal tips are and they’re monitored very, very closely. I think a single point of contact with the public was an area that they discussed. 

‘This is obviously a legacy of our coal mining history. It is something that is continually monitored. I think it was a very constructive meeting and those discussions will continue.’

On Monday, a spokeswoman for the UK Government said it had been in ‘regular touch’ with emergency services, local authorities, public bodies and the Welsh Government following the flooding.

Flood hardship payments made to individuals and families will not affect their eligibility for benefits issued by the Department for Work and Pensions, she confirmed.

‘Flood defences and the response to flooding in Wales are a responsibility of the Welsh Government but the Secretary of State for Wales told the First Minister that the UK Government will look seriously at any request from the Welsh Government for additional support and assistance for flood relief,’ the spokeswoman said.

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