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Major incident declared on Somerset Levels as more heavy rain on the way
This live event has finished
- Amber warning in place.
- Major incident declared by both Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council.
- 10 to 20mm of rain expected to fall.
- Experts tell public to "be prepared" for further flooding.
For updates from Saturday (January 25), click here.
I'm signing off for the night. Let's hope it stays dry for all those on the Somerset Levels.
The Met Office is forecasting a cloudy day tomorrow with sunny intervals.
Climate change means land use WILL alter over time. Better to face up to this fact and spend resources wisely. #somersetlevels— @seasonalight 24 January 2014
Long Load Bridge in South Somerset is closed both ways. The bridge is closed between Church Lane and Knole Causeway.
The River Yeo has left the bridge in an unsafe condition and its state will be assessed once the water is low enough.
There is access to Long Load village from Martock but no access over the bridge to Long Sutton and beyond.
When we put residents' concerns over the lack of dredging on the Somerset Levels to the Environment Agency two weeks ago, this was its response:
"The tidal nature of the River Parrett and Tone on Somerset Levels means they rapidly silt up and de-silting would only have a limited effect in reducing flood risk in such an event as this.
"This would require significant on-going maintenance to achieve the desired channel size. However, the larger the channel the more rapid the tidal silt will accumulate.
"Work commenced in November on the de-silting of identified ‘pinch points’ starting on the River Tone and working towards the River Parrett to maintain river flow through small scale works.
"This is an interim step seeking to maximise the capacity of the existing system whilst longer term approaches are considered. Bath and West of England Society are attempting to raise funds for larger scale dredging.
"We have had staff on site for the duration of the bad weather and flooding and have brought in staff from other regions and additional portable pumping equipment to assist."
Like the rest of the UK, the Somerset Levels is a managed environment - so let's manage it! #dredge #parrett #tone @dredgetherivers— @AlexPStevens 24 January 2014
MPs discussed flooding in the House of Commons this week.
Ian Liddell-Grainger, who as reported this morning has written to prime minister David Cameron, said Somerset was "drowning."
Taunton Deane MP Jeremy Browne said: "People on the levels are unable to get their children to school, they are unable to get to work and local businesses such as pubs have lost a large amount of business."
No rain here in Taunton as of yet, but there's a 90% chance of rain according to our weather page.
Told today by Moorland resident that many neighbours don't have house insurance as quoted 35k by insurance companies due 2012 floods.#fail— @cllrjaybaker 24 January 2014
In France the Govt has bought houses from the owners in dangerous flood zones.— @MikeSRigby 24 January 2014
Sending support to villagers flooded in Somerset - we're in same county but not flooded - real shame for beautiful homes on #SomersetLevels— @rhubarb2rhubarb 24 January 2014
Damp day in Muchelney http://t.co/0iiPfZGEgZ— @Jamie_Merrill 24 January 2014
This is an A road in the Sedgemoor District. It's been like this for three weeks. http://t.co/2eJQ3ioYcN— @CharlieTaylor4 24 January 2014
Saltmoor pumping station today. 21st C solution to flooding?? #investnow #levels @dredgetherivers @waterlevels http://t.co/lrJawmea49— @WildImaging 24 January 2014
Please follow @dredgetherivers - support campaign to prevent the disastrous flooding of the #SomersetLevels— @WildImaging 24 January 2014
Graham Watson, the South-West's MEP, has said: "I agree with Somerset County Council's decision to call flooding a 'major incident'. I hope this will make it easier to access EU emergency funds."
Perhaps time for a Repeat Warning.....If it says Road Closed & you chose to ignore, chances are insurance is invalid http://t.co/EYJE705bta— @DJAFothergill 24 January 2014
Shouldn't the flooding have been a "major incident" 3 weeks ago? #somersetfloods— @flowerbedgrl 24 January 2014
UP to £1million could be spent on dredging rivers and creating flood prevention schemes across the county.
The Somerset County Council announcement comes after a mini flood summit and sees the council proposing a £500,000 funding boost, bringing their overall total to a seven-figure sum.
They have also launched a social media campaign to try to get more help from central government as parts of the county remain underwater almost five weeks after the torrential rains began.
Council leader John Osman said: “This extra funding, at a time of extremely challenging finances for the council, is a clear indication of how determined we are to stand up for residents and small businesses who have been devastated by flooding, not once, but twice in just over a year.”
The council had already coughed up £300,000 for dredging, and £200,000 for local flood prevention schemes, making the total of £1m – with a rallying call for Government and the Environment Agency to ‘dig into their own pockets’ and find the further £3m needed to enable a comprehensive dredging operation for the Rivers Parrett and Tone.
The offer came as leading councillors and officers held a crisis meeting with Dan Rogerson – Minister for Water and Rural Affairs. Also invited were MPs, the Environment Agency and representatives of other councils and voluntary groups.
Cllr Osman added: “The Minister listened to our case – which I feel is very strong – and saw for himself the extent of the flooding.
“He has promised to take up our case and we have agreed to a further meeting in Whitehall to continue to fight for significant investment.
"He agrees Somerset has had two years of severe flooding which puts it ahead of any other claims for help and support.
“It is important we are all on the same side to have the best chance of success. This is about working together to help people pick up their lives once the flood waters recede.
“At the moment, we have a community at Muchelney completely cut off, we have a main road impassable through the middle of the county, we have a damaged road bridge, we have thousands of acres of farmland under water – all this means we have many, many people and businesses whose lives are being ruined. We must get the Government to act and to act quickly.”
People can register their backing by ‘liking’ a Facebook page it has set up called Fairer Funding for Somerset or comment on Twitter using the hashtag #fairerfundingforsomerset
News in the pub tonight, govt has finally woken up to the fact that #SomersetLevels is a disaster area #floods lets see what they do now!— @janepursey 24 January 2014
A petition has been started in an attempt to stop the flooding on the Somerset Levels. Details below:
Sign #StopFlooding on #SomersetLevels e-petition http://t.co/ebkeFMz3qO - petition now has 3,427 signatures & closes 29/1/14. Please RT— @TowerWard 24 January 2014
Somerset County Council has now declared a 'major incident' for all of the areas affected by flooding in the county.
Earlier in the day, Sedgemoor District Council made the same announcement for its own flood-affected areas.
It follows forecasts of further heavy rain coupled with high spring tides next week that could cause more flooding.
Deputy chief executive Pat Flaherty said: “Our priority has to be to keep people safe.
"We are doing everything we can to do this and we believe that declaring a major incident shows just how urgent the situation is for many of our residents and communities.
"The reason we are taking this action is the long-term nature of the issues we are facing and to enable a consistent approach to the way that we deal with them."
The county council will continue with its current help and support for people affected by flooding, which includes:
- Providing a boat service for the cut-off community of Muchelney and Thorney
- Providing a pontoon bridge at Langport
- Supporting farmers providing a vital tractor service to communities
- Keeping the majority of roads open across the Council
- Identifying vulnerable people and where appropriate moving individuals to safety
- Helping people keep vital dialysis and other important medical appointments using 4x4 vehicles
- Assessing public health and animal welfare issues
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is offering the following advice ahead of tonight's predicted flooding:
- Switch off water, gas and electricity at mains when water is about to enter your home. Do not touch sources of electricity when standing in water
- Do not smoke, eat or drink whilst in contact with floodwater and always wash your hands afterwards as the water may be contaminated
- Don’t walk on riverbanks
- Avoid travelling through flood water. Due to the severity of the flooding, residents should not attempt to travel through floodwater in any type of vehicle, including tractors
- Keep children and vulnerable people out of floodwater
- Take care or avoid crossing bridges when water levels are high
- Take care crossing culverts as they are dangerous when flooded
- Do not travel in heavy rain storms unless absolutely necessary. Keep an eye on weather reports on local television or listen to local radio
- Do not attempt to walk through flooded areas. Even shallow water moving fast can sweep you off your feet and there may be hidden dangers such as open drains, damaged road surfaces, submerged debris or deep channels; these can cause serious injuries or even death
- Following a flood in your home, make sure all electrical circuits are fully dried out and checked by an electrical engineer before switching back on can cause serious injuries or even death
12:44pm Fri 24 Jan 14
Guy Smiley says
Area at or below sea level and artificially drained using diesel or electric pumps has flooded due to heavy rain.
When will we learn that this area naturally floods, has flooded for thousands of years and will continue to flood regardless of how many pumps are installed.
Looking out over Saltmoor from Burrowbridge by @WildImaging #somersetlevels #flooding http://t.co/cudsUWiB0j— @dredgetherivers 24 January 2014
Around 17,000 acres of land lie underwater a month after the flooding began.
Avon and Somerset Police chief constable Nick Gargan said he was breifed earlier as the county prepares for further rainfall.
He tweeted: "I've just been getting a briefing: reassuring me that we're doing all we can to mitigate the impact of flooding in Somerset."
#floods #SomersetLevels Image courtesy NASA/USGS. Satellite image 10.30am 23.01.14. Bridgwter top left - Taunton BL http://t.co/rrpYxyBNcg— @Hippiepig 24 January 2014
Last year it was snow; this year it's rain... @CountyGazette from January 24, 2013 #Somersetfloods http://t.co/eCuypiW2J7— @GazetteMMarsh 24 January 2014
With more rain coming on #SomersetLevels do not travel through floodwater, even in a #tractor http://t.co/S9VpyTbzqN http://t.co/YKSWtiWDaD— @DSFireUpdates 24 January 2014
There are currently eight flood warnings and 20 flood alerts in the South-West.
To sign up for Environment Agency Flood warnings, click here.
Temp above zero no winter action tonight. Heavy rain due shortly should clear between 22.00-23.00— @somersetgritter 24 January 2014
At community request we've put in temp steps and handrail to help residents safely use the footpath #Thorney Mill. http://t.co/Z0xpdYcsag— @EnvAgencySW 24 January 2014
The Environment Agency has published this YouTube video entitled 'What we do when it floods'.
Working hard to ensure that 'Major incident' status is extended to all of the Levels not just Sedgemoor DC. Floods don't stop at the border!— @DJAFothergill 24 January 2014
Our thoughts are with all those who have been flooded. Find out who to call for help at http://t.co/yGYXW0MazM #floodaware— @EnvAgencySW 24 January 2014
What is a major incident?
According to Somerset County Council:
• Major incidents are normally declared by one of the emergency services and are the trigger for notifying and mobilising other responder partner organisations including SCC. However, there could be circumstances when SCC may elect to declare a major incident if it is unable to deal with an ‘internal’ incident as part of normal day-to-day activities.
• A major incident will be declared by one organisation because it is beyond its normal day-to-day capabilities. Other partner organisations may be capable of handling their part of the emergency and may not need to declare a major emergency for themselves.
• However, in all cases where a major emergency is declared by one or more responder agencies, all other partner agencies will be informed so that special procedures can be put into place if required.
This statement has just been released by Somerset County Council.
Deputy council leader David Hall (pictured) said: “We’re supporting Sedgemoor District Council’s decision to call the flooding in Somerset a major incident.
"The Met Office is forecasting more rain this weekend leading to an increase in flood water levels across the county.
"We also expect further high tides next week that will make the situation worse.
“We will continue to support residents affected by floods.
"We have recently extended our boat service for stranded residents in Muchelney and Thorney, we are helping communities strengthen their flood defences and will continue to ensure vulnerable people are safe.”
You can send your flooding photos and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org (Taunton, West Somerset and Wellington areas), email@example.com (Bridgwater, North Petherton and surrounding villages), firstname.lastname@example.org (Burnham, Highbridge and surrounding villages) and email@example.com (Chard, Ilminster and villages).
PHOTO: Jeff Thomas
Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has written to David Cameron and Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles this morning asking for help.
There are fears the next band of heavy rain could cause major problems for Langport and Westonzoyland, near Bridgwater.
Mr Liddell-Grainger, who has criticised said: “The priority now is to ensure that we don’t see hundreds more homes invaded by the floods.
“There is a very real risk of catastrophic flooding on a scale not seen for more than a century unless we act swiftly and decisively.
“I have told the Prime Minister we need extra pumping capacity brought here as soon as possible and we may also need help from the military if the situation progresses in the way it appears to be going.
“I congratulate Sedgemoor District Council on taking this step and trust all other local authorities in the county will be ready to offer whatever support and resources they can.”
Tony Berthon, from Summerleaze Crescent in Taunton, contacts us to say:
"I see that the King's Sedgemoor Drain was built and finished by 1795.
"The time has surely come to build a King's Sedgemoor Drain number two.
"It would be difficult and expensive to cut across from say Lyng to the Parrett estuary but over time, particularly if dredging was done each year at £4million-plus a time, it would pay for itself."
Sedgemoor District Council has this morning declared a major incident in response to prolonged flooding and the weather forecast over the next couple of days.
Chief executive Kerry Rickards said: "Several Sedgemoor communities have been severely affected by the floodwaters for some weeks now.
"With significant rainfall expected over the coming days we feel this situation needs to be escalated as a major incident.
"Sedgemoor District Council would like to extend its continued sympathy for the residents, business owners and farmers affected by flooding."
The council says it has offered practical support to people whose properties are flooded, or are predicted to flood.
This ranges from portaloo provision where septic tanks are overwhelmed, sandbag collection points in villages as well as deliveries to the most vulnerable properties.
A council spokesman said: "We have provided roughly 3000 sandbags in the past few weeks.
"Sedgemoor District Council is also providing housing advice and is on standby to provide alternative, temporary accommodation and set up rest-centres if, and when, required.
"We continue to support Somerset County Council's campaign for an effective long-term solution."
The A361 at Burrowbridge is still closed due to flooding. For the latest on the roads, see our live traffic and travel page.
Although destructive, flooding can make some beautiful pictures.
Send us photos from where you are and they could make it into our online gallery, which you can view by clicking here.
Tweet them to @CountyGazette, @BWMercury, @BHWeeklyNews or @chardandilynews or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The photo above was snapped by our photographer Geoff Hall looking towards Muchelney when it was at its worst.
Eight flood warnings and 20 flood alerts are currently in place across the South-West.
People are warned to be prepared for further flooding. For advice, call Floodline on 0845 988 1188
Pray for people on Somerset Levels as more rain is forecast for the weekend with amber flood warnings— @Tauntonbish 23 January 2014
Earlier this week, Jackie Curtis tweeted this picture looking towards Westonzoyland church from the Parchey to Stawell road.
It clearly shows many fields are still under water.
Many communities are still coming to terms with the devastating earlier this month.
Most of the Somerset Levels are is under water, while villagers in Muchelney are still stranded.
As reported yesterday, a vital boat service which is ferrying people to work and school, as well as shipping in supplies, is to continue longer than expected.
It was due to end today but roads in and out of the village are swamped.
With more rain forecast this weekend,means more stress & worry for residents of #Somerset people need help NOW & county needs money to do so— @cllrjaybaker 24 January 2014
For those who don't think the #flooding in #Somerset is a major incident, try living in the area where people's every day lives are torrid— @cllrjaybaker 24 January 2014
Staff from the Environment Agency, councils and emergency services have been praised following their work dealing with the New Year floods.
Their efforts were praised by Wessex Regional Flood & Coastal Committee when members met last week.
Anthony Gibson, chairman of Somerset Water Management Partnership, has sent a letter to MP Dan Rogerson, the Defra Minister responsible for flood defence.
Mr Gibson is calling for action to address the problem on the Somerset Levels.
He wrote: "The problem clearly needs to be tackled in the round. That includes measures in the upper catchment to reduce the speed and volume of run-off, helping communities, households and businesses, including farmers, to achieve greater resilience, and making better use of the gravity flood-plain.
"In our previous incarnation, as the Parrett Catchment Project, we commissioned a great deal of practical work on integrated catchment management and we are fully signed up to the ‘catchment-based approach’".
Mr Gibson believes the key is dredging of the rivers Parrett and Tone.
He added: "It is the one thing that simply must be done to restore the trust of the Levels’ community that the Government and its agencies really do understand and care about the dreadful situation they have faced for these past two winters.
"With dredging, I am sure we can achieve the level of positive local engagement which will be needed to move forward across the whole water management agenda, including the approaches which have been proposed by the RSPB and the Somerset Wildlife Trust; without it, making progress will be vastly more difficult."
SOMERSET is braced for more wild weather as the Met Office issues an amber warning of rain.
Heavy rain will add to the misery caused in already flood-hit areas, with forecasters warning further flooding in prone areas this weekend.
A Met Office forecaster said: "Bands of rain are expected to move eastwards across the area during Friday bringing rainfall accumulations of 10 to 20 mm.
"With water levels already exceptionally high on the Somerset Levels, the public should be prepared for further flooding."
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