Environment Agency urges communities to be prepared for significant flooding

There are two severe flood warnings in place.

22 February 2022

The Environment Agency (EA) has warned of a significant risk of flooding despite a Government minister praising “remarkably successful” temporary barriers.

Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin left 1.4 million households without electricity, some for up to 72 hours, while dozens of properties near the River Severn have been evacuated.

The EA is urging communities in parts of the West Midlands and Yorkshire, especially those along the Rivers Severn and Ouse, to be prepared for significant flooding following high rainfall from Storm Franklin.

Winter weather Feb 22nd 2022
Flood waters from the River Severn surround The Boat Inn at Jackfield near Ironbridge, Shropshire (Nick Potts/PA)

Two severe flood warnings, meaning there is a danger to life, have been issued for the River Severn at the Wharfage in Ironbridge and in Wribbenhall, Bewdley, where levels could overtop the defences, the agency said.

Around 400 properties have flooded across different parts of the country as a result of the heavy rain.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said 40,000 homes had been protected by flood defences, as he was quizzed on flooding and the lack of permanent defences on the River Severn at the National Farmers’ Union conference.

He said: “The Severn has had some issues particularly around Bewdley and Ironbridge and also some issues as well around Shrewsbury, but actually the defences that we have put in place have been very successful, as they were two years ago, protecting those communities.

Winter weather Feb 22nd 2022
A goose swims past cars stranded in flood water in York after the River Ouse overtopped its banks (Danny Lawson/PA)

“We know there are around 40,000 homes that have been protected by the flood defences put in place and on the Severn in particular we have these rather innovative demountable barriers that enable you to use the river normally most of the year.

“And then when the flood risk arises, we put up temporary barriers alongside the river, and those have been remarkably successful at reducing the flood risk particularly along the Severn, and have been again this time.”

While there had been some flooding it remained relatively low, he said.

“It obviously is a tragedy for those who do get flooded, but in the context of the 40,000 homes that we’ve protected through the flood defences we’ve got in place, you always have to keep that in mind,” Mr Eustice added.

Winter weather Feb 22nd 2022
A general view of Ironbridge, Shropshire (Nick Potts/PA)

Katharine Smith, flood duty manager at the EA, said significant river flooding is expected in the coming days as she advised people to stay away from swollen rivers.

She said: “We are still facing a significant flooding risk, and we are urging people to remain vigilant and take extreme care.

“Heavy rain, affecting already wet areas, is likely to cause significant river flooding along the River Severn over the next few days.

“So far we have received reports of around 400 properties having flooded over the past few days. Our thoughts go out to all those affected – flooding can and does have a devastating impact on people’s lives.

“We have teams out on the ground taking preventative action, closing flood gates, deploying temporary barriers and moving pumps and other response equipment to areas of highest risk. Environment Agency defences have protected more than 40,000 properties despite record river levels.

Winter weather Feb 22nd 2022
Water begins to spill behind flood defences along the River Severn at Bewdley (Joe Giddens/PA)

“We advise people to stay away from swollen rivers and not to drive through flood water as just 30cm of flowing water is enough to move your car.”

Telford & Wrekin councillor Shaun Davies, who was on the scene in Ironbridge on Tuesday morning where flooding has hit areas without defences, has called on the central Government to provide a “permanent solution” to flood risks along the river.

Mr Davies said the Government have provided the community with “temporary” flood barriers, but “there is significant concern they will be breached”.

“This is a problem for the Severn as a whole and we need to make sure the solution is permanent,” he added.

Winter weather Feb 22nd 2022
Flood defences along the Wharfage next to the River Severn following high winds and wet weather in Ironbridge (Nick Potts/PA)

The councillor said the EA and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that flooding in 2020 was a “once-in-a-century event”.

“But it’s just two years later and we need to be preparing for this kind of event as a normal event going forward,” he said, adding that the community now needs “permanent barriers”.

Meanwhile, AA Home Insurance said it received more than 600 claims solely in relation to Storm Eunice, with around 90% of claims for damaged roofs and fences.

The AA’s Motor Insurance team also received around 350 claims over the weekend with many being single vehicle collisions.

The Met Office has issued yellow warnings for wind across north-east England, Cumbria, North Yorkshire and parts of Scotland for Wednesday, while a yellow warning for wind and snow covers much of Scotland and Northern Ireland from 1pm on Wednesday until 3pm on Thursday.

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