Radio Sandwell News

Storm forces thousands from homes

2013-12-05 19:31:21

Residents have been filling sandbags and emergency evacuation centres have been set up, as Ben Ando reports

Thousands of people are being evacuated from their homes as a severe storm batters large parts of the UK.

A lorry driver died after his vehicle was blown on top of two cars in West Lothian, while another man was killed by a falling tree in Nottinghamshire.

In north Wales, lifeboat crews rescued residents from flooded homes while England's east coast prepares for the worst tidal surge in 60 years.

The Environment Agency has more than 40 severe flood warnings in place.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson - who chaired two of the goverment's emergency Cobra meetings on Thursday - says the Armed Forces are on standby to help if necessary.

In Great Yarmouth, on the Norfolk coast, police are visiting 9,000 homes to advise people to leave their homes ahead of a storm surge expected at high tide, at 22:45 GMT.

Respite centres have been opened in high schools and the ill and elderly people have been asked to call the council for help. In addition, 20,000 sandbags have been distributed.

Elsewhere, two inshore lifeboats helped rescue 25 residents and six dogs from flooded bungalows in Rhyl, Denbighshire, while police say 300 homes have been evacuated in Port Clarence, Middlesbrough

The storm has hit north Wales, where there has been flooding in coastal areas

In Rhyl. the RNLI is assisting with the evacuation of residents

The BBC's Dafydd Evans, who is in Rhyl, says he can see cars are underwater and around 300 homes flooded in the town.

An Environment Agency spokesman said that in the "worst-case scenario" 6,000 UK properties could be flooded.

In addition to more than 40 severe flood warnings - meaning there could be a danger to life - the agency has around 120 flood warnings in place.

Firefighters are evacuating 2,500 homes in Jaywick, near Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, while homes and businesses are also at risk in Suffolk, Norfolk and in Lincolnshire, thousands from coastal areas are being evacuated to Scunthorpe.

In Lincolnshire, emergency planners say up to 18,000 homes in the Boston area could be affected by flooding later.

Cobra meeting

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that he was ensuring all government departments and agencies were doing "all they can to help with [the] storm".

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson also urged people "to pay close attention to announcements by the Environment Agency".

Other developments include:

Transport Scotland has also told people to avoid travelling on the roads, while some rail services have resumed after the entire Scottish network was shut.

There are several warnings of affected travel, including:

  • Rail delays expected in Scotland, northern and eastern England, although services between Edinburgh and Glasgow and Edinburgh and North Berwick have resumed
  • Virgin Trains says no trains will run north of Carlisle until further notice and onward travel by any means cannot be guaranteed
  • East Coast Trains says it will run a revised timetable
  • East Midlands Trains says most of its routes are disrupted and is advising customers not to travel unless necessary
  • The Humber Bridge is closed in both directions due to strong winds

The storm has also brought disruption to parts of northern Europe.

Dutch airline KLM cancelled 84 continental flights from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, while around 20 were cancelled at Hamburg airport

Also, in the Netherlands - where 27% of the country lies below sea level - the landmark Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier has been closed off for the first time in six years

BBC weather presenter Matt Taylor explained that "storm surges" begin when a rising area of low pressure takes pressure off the surface of the sea, allowing it "bulge" upwards.

Weather presenter Matt Taylor explains how a storm surge happens

"Then, as that pulls away, you get the very strong winds on the back edge of the low pressure and then that shoves that bulge of high sea levels down through the North Sea," he said.

The Environment Agency said the North Sea coast from Northumberland to the Thames Estuary was at risk.

Those likely to be affected include West Mersea in Essex, Southwold and Thorpeness in Suffolk, the Riverside Business park in Lowestoft, Suffolk, and along the Bure and Yare rivers in Great Yarmouth.

Wildlife wardens in Lincolnshire are preparing to protect seal pups from high tides after dozens died in a tidal surge two years ago.

In some places sea levels could be as high as those during the devastating floods of 1953 - although flood defences built since then meant many parts of the country were now better protected, the Environment Agency said.

Flights cancelled

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has issued 19 flood warnings.

The Met Office said there had been severe gales of between 60mph and 80mph across Scotland and northern parts of England, with some mountainous regions in Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire recording speeds of around 140mph.

Areas included in the Met Office's amber "be prepared" warning are Central, Tayside and Fife; East Midlands; East of England; North East England, North West England, Orkney & Shetland, SW Scotland, Lothian Borders, Strathclyde, Yorkshire & Humber.

(See latest updates from the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency)

This warning indicates likely travel delays from road and rail closures, power cuts and damage to properties.

Wales, Northern Ireland and the West Midlands are among those placed under a yellow warning.

This tells people in the area to be aware of the possibility of severe weather and to expect some disruption to their activities and travel plans.

Conditions across the UK are expected to have improved by the weekend.


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