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Floods and major travel disruption in Westcountry following storm

By tobymeyjes  |  Posted: December 24, 2013

  • Ccouncil workers try to deal with a flooded road on the A3072, Copplestone to Okehampton road

  • There are floods and major travel disruption in Devon and Cornwall following last night's storm

  • Trees have been blown over near Princetown because of the heavy winds. Photo by @BillMartinWMN

  • Nick and Lucy Whitman watch nervously as the water rises in a mill leat that runs off the River Kennall and threatened to flood their home at Stickenbridge near Perranarworthal on the A390 between Falmouth and Truro

  • Traffic deal with the floods on many of the back roads, flooded as is the Exeter to Tedburn St Mary road

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Rail passengers travelling from London to the Westcountry were left stranded in Taunton for nearly seven hours last night after storms battered the region.

Communities in Devon and Cornwall were left assessing the damage caused by the 70mph winds and up to 60mm of rain that hit the region last night.

Many roads remain impassable and train and ferry services cancelled due to flooding and fallen trees.

A 46-year-old man was killed today after being swept away by the River Lemon in Newton Abbot when trying to rescue his dog.

Elsewhere, fire crews have rescued one adult and three children from a car stuck in floodwater in Podimore, Yeovil in Somerset.

Two fire appliances and the rescue tender as well as the specialist rescue team from Bridgwater attended Church Street at 5.31pm.

A spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: “Fire crews rescued one adult and three children by leading them to safety using inflatable powered boat and dry suits.

“Fire crews left the incident in the hands of Police.”

Meanwhile, the A303 in Somerset is closed in both directions near Yeovil between the A37/A372 at Podimore and the A3088 at Tintinhull due to flooding.

The Highways Agency, Avon and Somerset Police and Somerset County Council are working to re-open the route as soon as it is safe to do so.

“Traffic travelling from Devon and Cornwall towards London is advised to use the M5 northbound and M4 eastbound,” a Highways Agency spokesman said.

“Road users travelling from London and the South East are advised to use the M4 westbound and M5 southbound.”

Ealier, passengers traveling on a First Great Western’s service from London Paddington to Devon and Cornwall were left stranded at Taunton shortly before 1am because of flooding and signal problems...

Steven Rowe, who was travelling from London to Plymouth, said he was left at Taunton from 12.50am until 7.30am when he was put on a coach to Exeter.

“We left London at 8.50pm and on the way we had a 50mph speed restriction towards Newbury, so that took ages,” Mr Rowe told the BBC.

“We heard a big clunk and apparently we hit a big tree branch on the line, so that delayed us even further.

“After that we came across flooding on the line and signal problems, so we terminated the train at Taunton at 12.50am, so we were standing there right until 7.30am when they told us we were going on coaches to Exeter.

“They provided food for us on the train but we basically just had to sit there all night and we didn’t have much information at all. We didn’t get told what time the buses or taxis were coming.

“All we were told was that there are no buses and we had to wait for further announcements.

“Everyone was getting a bit moody and tired as the night went on. Quite a few people had children with them, so they were struggling to sleep and were getting annoyed.

“There were quite a few people who were on the train going down to Penzance and Camborne who only just got taxis.”

Commuters in Devon and Cornwall were advised to not travel unless absolutely necessary, with countless roads closed due to either flooding or fallen trees.

Travellers on trains also face a huge disruption to services with lines closed in the aftermath of the storm.

The Environment Agency still has 74 flood warnings and 59 flood alerts in place for the South West this morning.

Western Power Distribution is understood to be trying to restore power to 1,000 homes in Cornwall which were plunged in to darkness because of the storm.

Rescue helicopters from the Westcountry battled storm force nine winds to assist in the daring rescue of a French and Swiss sailor after their yacht broke in two amid massive waves in the Atlantic last night.

In a rescue co-ordinated by Falmouth Coastguard, rescue helicopters from RNAS Culdrose and RMB Chivenor went to assist the yacht after it got in to difficulty at around 6.50pm.

After refuelling on the Isles of Scilly, the rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose continued to assist the yacht, which was being broken up by 10 metre waves and storm forced nine winds.

The helicopter from Chivenor, however, had to land at Land’s End after suffering a technical problem.

The 19 metre yacht, taking part in the Transat Jaques Vabre race and on its way to Brest, had become severely damaged by the weather conditions.

The Royal Navy helicopter arrived on scene just after midnight and attempted to winch the crew on board but because of the damage to the mono-hull racing yacht and weather conditions they had to abandon the attempt just before 1am

However, a Norwegian container ship Star Isfjord, which had diverted to assist the yacht arrived on scene at 4am and at just after 6am managed to grab a line from the Rivages in a force eight wind and seas with eight metre waves. The two crew transferred to the ship are now on the way to Rotterdam.

Falmouth Coastguard watch manager Ian Guy said: “This has been a very lengthy rescue and demanding rescue. The yacht was a long way from land and at the mercy of massive waves.

“The helicopter crew did all that they could but the damage to the yacht made it impossible for them to winch the crew to safety.

“It’s thanks to the skill and dedication of the crew of the Star Isfjord that we can happily report that the crew of the yacht are now on their way home for Christmas.”

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said the force responded to 150 calls last night compared to the usual 30, the majority relating to fallen trees, flood water blocking roads and vehicles becoming stranded in flood water.

One response was to a vehicle which had been flipped on to its roof by the wind while travelling along Teignmouth seafront, but there was no serious injuries

A spokesman said: “Motorists are advised to slow their speed, used dipped headlamps and be considerate to other road users. Fog lamps should not be used due to dazzle caused to other drivers.

“Drivers should also drive according to road conditions and not try to pass through floodwater.”

Devon and Somerset Fire crews were called to 250 weather-related incidents last night, including flooding of properties and rescues of motorists from floodwater.

The fire service pulled 26 people from 16 cars.

Other incidents included "extensive pumping" of floodwater inside a building in North Bovey, and salvaging items from a flooded property, Littlehempston, near Totnes.

The service has repeated calls for motorists to heed warnings not to drive through floodwater, as it could put themselves and others at risk.

Area manager Phil Martin said: “It is impossible for motorists to tell how deep water is or the condition of the ground beneath. There is a significant risk to life if motorists become stranded.

“If they do see floodwater on the road, they should not attempt to drive through it but should try to find an alternative route. And if a road has been closed, it is for the safety of the public and closure signs should be respected.”

Cornwall Fire and Rescue service had answered 100 emergency calls between 9pm and midnight from across the county.

One of the most serious incidents was in Helston where there were significant concerns over the River Cober.

Fire crews used two main pumps to remove water from the road, including a high volume pump from Newquay and a second from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue service.

Fire crews also helped rescue a number of motorists who were trapped in their cars in flood water at the A39 at the Norway Inn.

“We experienced some very severe weather in Cornwall yesterday with very high winds and heavy rainfall,” said Cornwall Council’s interim chief executive Paul Masters. “Staff from the council’s highways, emergency management and fire and rescue services worked closely with colleagues in the police, highways agency and environment agency throughout the night to respond to the incident and I would like to thank everyone for their hard work."

There remains major dispution to rail routes this morning with First Great Western closing lines between Exeter St Davids and Barnstaple and Exeter St Davids and Taunton.

And while the weather is expected to be more settled throughout Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the Met Office has issued a fresh weather warning for Friday.

A less-severe ‘yellow-graded’ weather warning is in place from midnight on Thursday until 11.59pm on Friday.

A chief forecaster at the Met Office said wind speeds would pick up again on Boxing Day evening but peak on Friday with gusts of around 80mph forecast again.

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2 comments

  • InsidetheEA  |  December 26 2013, 12:11PM

    I have questions about the readiness and effectiveness of the flood defences. Henry @ Whistleblower blog http://tinyurl.com/o6y5w5r

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  • jaxonpiper  |  December 24 2013, 10:01PM

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