25 Sep 2012

As floods hit, hundreds face night in temporary shelters

Residents of Morpeth in Northumberland are forced to leave their homes as heavy downpours cause disruption and travel problems across the north of England.

Homes have been evacuated in Northumberland as heavy rain swamped properties and sent cars sliding into rivers.

An estimated 40 people in Morpeth were helped from their homes into boats, when the River Wansbeck breached local flood defences.

A further 50 properties in and around Wearside have been evacuated, Sunderland City Council confirmed.

In Rothbury, councillor Steven Bridgett said: “The water was extremely fast-flowing. There have been a couple of cars washed down the river.”

The extreme weather conditions were declared a “major incident” by police and by midday on Tuesday, the Environment Agency had 73 flood warnings for rivers in place, and more than 150 less serious flood alerts.

Schools were advised to close early in some areas as heavy rain caused major travel disruption.

Wednesday's weather
Wednesday will see heavy showers across much of England and Wales, with some longer spells of rain at times for Wales, the Midlands and south west England. There will be the risk of the odd rumble of thunder in places.
There will be some sunny spells breakign through, especially further north and east in England. Showery rain across northern and eastern parts of Scotland, but it will be drier and brighter further south and west.
Sunny spells and scattered showers for Northern Ireland, these mainly in the east.
On Wednesday night showers will largely die away in the evening, to leave most parts dry overnight, although a few showers will linger near to English Channel coasts. A scattering of showers will also move into Wales and south west England later.
Elsewhere in the UK, it will be chilly with clear spells, but there will be mist, fog and low cloud forming in the early hours.
Flood defences row
Paul Gilley, who owns a B&B in Morpeth, says he is devastated after his business was flooded for the second time in four years. He says it could have been avoided had flood defences been built. The residents, he says, were abandoned and feel very angry. The Environment Agency says it has drawn up plans for new £20m flood defences for the town. £3m has been spent since the last floods in 2008.
Flooding in Morpeth. (Ciaran Jenkins)

Above: Flooding in Morpeth photographed by John Dal/Flickr

In West Yorkshire, residents of Hebden Bridge watched as the two rivers which merge in the town centre rose steadily. The area has already been hit by severe flooding twice this year.

Resident Brian Smith, who was watching on one of the bridges, said: “I reckon this is the top. The rain’s eased off so I reckon we might escape.
“But just watch it if the rain comes down again. It’s amazing how fast it will rise.”

Communities across the north of England and Wales are being warned they should remain prepared for further flooding tonight.

East coast trains

The main east coast rail route has been severely disrupted with passengers advised “not to travel north of York today”.

There is a limited East Coast service operating every hour between York and Newcastle. First TransPennine Express are running trains between York and Darlington.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “Our engineers are on site at several locations and are working to get lines reopened as soon as possible.

“Where lines remain closed, we are working with train operators to divert services where we can, and alternative transport is also being provided. However, flooding to roads in some areas is making this difficult.

“Passengers are advised to check with their train operator or National Rail enquiries before travelling for the latest service information.”

Check live rail travel updates here 

On the roads

Northumbria Police advised commuters to stagger their journey home to alleviate pressure on the roads.

Chief Inspector Sarah Pitt said: “There have been a number of collisions on the roads due to people driving too fast, aquaplaning and not driving according to conditions.

“Where possible drivers should also try and stagger their journeys home if at work as rush hour may be even busier than usual.

“People have been very supportive so far and we’d ask again against travel unless necessary.”

Snow or foam?

In Scotland, power cuts hit 2,000 homes as roads, ferries, bridges and train services faced disruption.

In Abderdeen, high winds swept vast amounts of sea foam from the North Sea onto the beach leaving cars, streets and houses covered in a strange white froth. Residents at first thought there had been a blizzard.