Days of wind and rain leave Plymouth battered
FORECASTERS are warning people to prepare for further disruption as more wet and windy weather is set to lash the city throughout the weekend.
As the torrential downpours and gale-force winds of Thursday subsided, people yesterday got to grips with the damage it had created.
The Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary near Looe, in South East Cornwall, suffered "significant damage" after floodwater got into buildings including staff offices and public toilets.
All electrical equipment in the education office was damaged, including computers and phones, while carpets, chairs and all the education team's packs and resources, including a collection of primate books in the education library, were ruined.
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Claire Turnbull, education officer, said: "I cannot believe the destruction it has caused.
"It's just terrible. Our education resources are vital for the work that we do in educating local schools, colleges and universities on conservation and primate welfare.
"The weather has really affected us in many ways this year. There is nothing in the budget to repair this kind of damage and destruction."
The Cats Protection charity shop on Mutley Plain also suffered. The store, which only opened for business last week, is counting the cost after it lost hundreds of pounds worth of stock when a basement was flooded.
Water had also leaked through the roof into the shop, damaging office equipment and ruining items on sale including books, pictures and cat beds, which also had to be thrown away.
Manager Claire Rennie said: "It was devastating when we found the shop was flooded and saw many items, which had been donated by the kind people of Plymouth, submerged, sodden or bobbing about on the water.
"It's going to be doubly hard to start again from square one and replenish our stock, so if anyone has any clean goods, books or clothes that they are thinking of giving away, then I would urge people to donate them to us."
The Colebrook Inn, in Plympton, was also flooded as deluges hit every corner of the city. Residents there and in Lipson Vale took to the streets in a bid to clean up.
David Mitchelmore, landlord of the Colebrook, said local people had thrown themselves into helping to clear drains and clean up.
It is the fourth time this year the pub has flooded. Last night they were back in business but the dining area at the rear remained closed.
Mr Mitchelmore said he was getting builders in next week to install new drains.
But with more wet weather on the way, they are likely to be too late to save the pub from another soaking.
Plymouth Waterfront Partnership announced yesterday that the Saturday Farmers' Market, which was due to take place today at West Pier on the Barbican, had been cancelled due to anticipated winds of up to 43mph.
And St Luke's Hospice has had to postpone its Reindeer Rally until Saturday, December 15.
Numerous sporting events are also likely to be cancelled due to water logged pitches. None of the council's football or rugby pitches will be playable over the weekend.
A forecaster for the Met Office said today would see between 20 and 40mm of rainfall, similar to Thursday's downpour which was recorded as 31mm.
"The rain will today be falling over a longer period, however, so we are looking at around 12 hours worth of steady rain including heavier bursts," the forecaster said. "It will also be a windy day with gusts reaching around 40mph.
"Throughout tonight, and into Sunday morning, it will become extremely windy with gusts of up to 60mph as the rain dies off."
The South West was yesterday upgraded from a yellow weather warning to amber. "People should be prepared for possible disruption due to the rain as well as the winds which will be strong enough to bring down trees and disrupt travel," the Met Office said.
PLYMOUTH MP DEMANDS ANSWERS OVER GDYNIA WAY DEBACLE
A CITY MP has written to South West Water and council leader Tudor Evans, demanding to know why a new road was incapable of handling this week’s flooding, writes Keith Rossiter.
Gdynia Way, the main route into Plymouth from the east, was closed by flooding for more than seven hours on Wednesday.
On Thursday drivers were faced with more chaos as the deluge continued, closing the road for a second time.
“It’s utterly appalling that the rain came down and the city hasn’t been able to cope with it,” Oliver Colvile, the MP for Sutton and Devonport, said.
Gdynia Way has been open less than a year after a multi-million pound revamp that left local traders fuming.
Mr Colvile said: “A lot of Government money has been spent on this road and local businesses were badly affected. I am just stunned that we may have to go through the whole thing again.”
He said that if the road had to be dug up again he would fight to ensure that the council pays “proper” compensation to businesses hit by the disruption.
Engineers from South West Water last night sent a camera into the drains and overflowing sewer to try to identify the cause of the problem.
A spokeswoman for the company said they were “very much hoping” it was a blockage which could be dealt with there and then.
“We believe the problem is entirely unconnected with the new road layout,” she said. “We have had a lot of rain recently and this is the first time this has happened which is why it took us somewhat by surprise. It indicates to us that the problem has happened recently.
“The working hypothesis is that it is a blockage or partial collapse, most probably something that has happened relatively recently.”
Plymouth City Council, which came under fire after the initial road closure, said the flooding on the road was not linked to the £19million East End Transport Project, which began in 2010 to improve traffic flows in the area.
A council spokesperson said: “South West Water now believes that there may be a problem with the network in this area beyond the extremely bad weather, such as a sewer collapse or serious blockage. The company will be surveying the sewer to locate the damage and arrange to carry out any necessary repairs.
“Plymouth City Council would like to make it clear that the flooding this week was in no way related to the flooding that historically affected this road.
“Previous flooding was caused by inadequate highway surface water drainage and this was successfully resolved as part of the £19million investment in the East End.
“Prior to starting work on the East End scheme, Plymouth City Council consulted with all the local utility companies to ensure they carried out any necessary alterations to their apparatus, as well as give them the opportunity to include any future proposed works they had planned.
“South West Water carried out various diversion works necessary to accommodate the East End Scheme.
“There were no known problems with the sewer on Gdynia Way at that time.”
South West Water will be holding a meeting this afternoon to discuss the findings from last night’s investigations.
SILENT WATERS FLOODED HOUSE WHILE FAMILY SLEPT
A FLOODED-OUT homeowner has described how the “silent” waters poured into his Grade II-listed house, writes Carl Eve.
Sam Richmond and his wife Selina could face months in temporary accommodation – and a huge clear-up bill.
The couple and their eight-year-old son live beside a stream in Tamerton Foliot, one of the worst-hit areas in the city.
Sam said he hard warned both the council and the Environment Agency “countless times” that the area was at risk of flooding.
The 33-year-old said Selina, suffering from a sore back, had chosen to sleep on the downstairs living room sofa on Tuesday evening.
But in the early hours she awoke with a start after she rolled over – and her hand plopped into cold water.
“Our dog Jackson was up to his chest in the kitchen and Selina shouted up to me,” Sam said. “There was about 18inches of water in the house. It was absolutely silent coming in.
“The water didn’t start dispersing until around 8.30am. All the electricity tripped so we’ve had no heating.”
Sam said he was meant to leave on Thursday to work offshore on a survey ship, but had to cancel to sort out the damage, which includes the total loss of Selina’s Audi car.
Sam said he had warned the Environment Agency and Plymouth City Council “countless times” about a culvert which sits on higher ground above his home and The Kings Arms pub, which was also badly flooded.
A small stream in the field often overflows when the culvert becomes blocked with debris, he said.
“This time it was a children’s tent and other debris,” Sam added.
The Environment Agency did not respond to the claims.
But a Plymouth Transport and Highways spokesperson said: “We are aware that a residential property and a public house in Tamerton Foliot have experienced flooding as a result of an Environment Agency culvert overflowing.
“This was probably caused by a build-up of leaves and debris being swept into the culvert by recent heavy rainfall.
“We have been in the area clearing and checking our own culverts, and are aware the Environment Agency has also been out to monitor the culvert that caused this flooding.
“To date, the Plymouth Watchman team has not received any reports of flooding due to their culvert from Mr Richmond.”