Torrential rain batters Plymouth - with more floods forecast
TORRENTIAL rain caused havoc across the city - and it looks like more downpours, gales and flooding are on the way.
Heavy rain led to road closures, chaos on the rail network and widespread flooding of homes and businesses.
Fire crews spent much of Friday night onwards tackling countless call outs to rain related incidents including a return visit to Colebrook, in Plympton, which once again suffered the brunt of the effects of the deluge.
Firefighters spent over 12 hours in the village after being called to the Colebrook Inn, in Colebrook Road, shortly after 2am on Saturday to clear flooding.
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They also spent hours helping village residents clear water from their properties - with a number of people being evacuated.
Firefighters were also called to rescue two men from a car at 3.30am on Saturday after floodwaters affected Haye Road in Elburton.
The road was later closed by police from the Plympton end at its junction with Ridge Road.
Potters Way, in Plympton, was also hit and crews were called to the area just before 5am.
A spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said that between 2.30am and 10am on Saturday the fire control room had received more than 130 calls for flooding across the region, including Plymouth, Plymstock, Plympton, Camels Head, Greenbank, Colebrook, Ivybridge, Lee Mill, Smithaleigh, Laira, Newnham, Goosewell, Yealmpton, Holbeton, Kingsbridge and Modbury.
One of the most potentially serious flooding issues came about in the early hours of Saturday after flooding was reported at the Milehouse electricity sub-station.
Firefighters from Crownhill, Greenbank and Tavistock stations were joined by police as well as staff from South West Water, Western Power and Plymouth City Council to battle the rising waters.
The sub-station, in Salisbury Ope behind Milehouse bus depot, provides power to thousands of homes as well as the dockyard.
The emergency services battled for a number of hours to ensure the power supply remained unaffected by the torrential rain. As the waters rose to a foot-and-a-half firefighters were forced to bring in a high-powered large-capacity pump from Devon and Somerset's Fire Service's Exeter-based Urban Search and Rescue Team to cope.
But by Saturday afternoon, culverts had been cleaned out and the water level had been brought down to just under six inches.
Meanwhile, in South East Cornwall, a landslide on Hannafore Road, in Looe, caused the road to be closed overnight, affecting access to 200 nearby homes.
Cornwall Council made the decision to close the road following concerns over the stability of a retaining wall and a spring affecting the area of the landslip.
Engineers from the authority were on site early yesterday morning to carry out works to stabilise the situation.
Other areas of Devon and Cornwall were also badly hit with 12 people in the Cornish town of Lostwithiel being taken to a rescue centre by RNLI lifeboat on Saturday night, around 30 homes in the village of Stoke Canon, Exeter, being evacuated after the River Exe burst its banks, and one woman in Umberleigh, north Devon, was rescued from a river after she was swept away from her car in flood water.
In Plymouth Crownhill police station became the "silver" command centre for a host of agencies and organisations who dealt with the effects of the rain.
Acting Supt Brendan Brookshaw, silver commander, said: "Much of the flooding in Plymouth was about the capacity to drain away. The ground is completely saturated."
He said numerous agencies were going to remain on alert at the silver command centre into today as a precaution.
The Met Office has warned the city to brace itself for further wet weather as we head into the festivities although it has been downgraded from initial predictions.
A forecaster said: "We have yellow warnings in place for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with further rain falling on already saturated ground.
"We are likely to see another 10 to 20mm of rainfall today, possibly 30mm on Dartmoor, which is likely to cause more localised flooding.
"Unfortunately we will also see further rain on Christmas Day with a similar amount of rainfall and very heavy showers, but longer drier periods in between.
"Generally speaking Boxing Day will also remain cloudy and wet. Sadly there is going to be no real let up, with the rain set to continue throughout the rest of the week, and the added risk of gales by Friday too. The weather looks likely to remain very unsettled until the end of the year."
GDYNIA WAY CLOSED FOR THIRD TIME IN A MONTH
ONE of the city’s busiest roads was again closed due to torrential rain - for the third time in a month.
During some parts of Friday night police were forced to shut a number of city roads for a short while due to ‘the sheer weight of surface water’ - including Gdynia Way, Western Approach and Union Street.
It was the third time within just over four weeks that Gdynia Way has had to be closed due to problems caused by heavy rain.
At the end of November the road was closed twice after downpours. The problem was blamed on South West Water sewers overflowing. Engineers, using CCTV cameras, found a lump of mortar and rubble in a pipe which they believed caused the blockage. However, the road flooded a few hours after the boulder was removed and engineers then said there was a build up of silt. Work was carried out the following week to clear that problem.
The road was recently revamped as part of the recent £19m East End transport project.
After this weekend’s closure a spokesperson for South West Water said: “The heavy rainfall this weekend has caused hydraulic overload in some areas of the network.
“The excess water at Gdynia Way in Plymouth on Friday was not the result of a blockage or issue with the system itself but rather the sheer volume of surface water entering the sewer.
“South West Water continues to work with Plymouth City Council to identify a long-term solution for this issue.”
PLYMOUTH RAIL SERVICE THROWN INTO CHAOs
RAIL passengers continue to face uncertainty over where they will spend Christmas Day with many train lines in the South West closed due to flooding.
As bad as the roads were at the weekend, the railways were even worse.
On Saturday First Great Western announced there was no service between Plymouth and Taunton, while services between Plymouth and Penzance were also cancelled.
Passengers wishing to get to the capital were forced to drive to Taunton to join packed trains to Bristol and Paddington. Waterloo bound services from Exeter did continue to operate.
The rail firm posted notices on its website claiming “a very limited road transport operation” was in place between Taunton, Exeter St Davids and Plymouth, but it was “being hampered by flooded roads and only a limited number of vehicles being available.”
The company even went so far as to advise customers “with non-essential travel to not attempt to travel West of Taunton in either direction.”
And yesterday the train company announced they were still experiencing flooding and landslips between the Plymouth and Taunton.
Trains were unable to operate between Tiverton Parkway Station and Exeter St Davids meaning services from Penzance, Plymouth, and Exeter St Davids towards Bristol Temple Meads and London Paddington were terminating at Exeter St Davids and starting from Tiverton until further notice.
Services from London Paddington towards Exeter St Davids and the West of England were also terminated at Tiverton.
Services between Liskeard and Looe were also suspended in both directions until further notice.The Local Firstgroup bus services were accepting First Great Western Tickets on reasonable routes, the train company said.
First Great Western and Arriva Cross Country Trains companies were also accepting each other’s tickets on services that are operating in the West Country.
VICTIMS OF THE FLOOD COUNT THE COST AGAIN
HOMEOWNERS and local businesses are already counting the cost of the deluge - but with more wet weather in store many are bracing themselves for a wet Christmas.
With Colebrook village in Plympton, bearing the brunt of the weekend washout, many of its residents were keeping their fingers crossed that today’s rain won’t mean their Christmas is a write-off.
David Mitchelmore, landlord of the Colebrook Inn, said the pub flooded for the eighth time this year on Friday night, with the severity of the damage increasing each time.
“There is a lot more damage this time and more areas of the pub have been effected. We even have raw sewage in the streets now.”
Mr Mitchelmore’s pub has been closed since the last floods in November, costing him in excess of £100,000 in turnover.
The pub was due to open at the end of January, but given the latest weather and further flooding to the business, Mr Mitchelmore said it was now “very unlikely”.
“We were just starting to redecorate and now the place is covered in sewage. The fact that we are cleaning up could all be a futile gesture - there’s probably more to come.
“But you can either sit down and start weeping or just get on with it.”
Last week The Herald reported how a meeting chaired by MP for South West Devon, Gary Streeter, saw residents and representatives from Colebrook debate future plans to reduce the incidents of flooding the village suffered, including a £600,000 scheme to improve gullies and sewer overflow. South West Water said they hoped to begin work on the scheme in 2014.
Mr Mitchelmore said: “It’s crazy. How do they think businesses and homeowners can survive another 16 months of this? I just don’t know where we can go with it.”
And Becky and Chris Stuckey, who also live in the village, spent most of Friday and Saturday night bailing water from their property.
The couple, who have four young children, also bore the brunt of last month’s storm.
“We were advised to evacuate the house on Saturday,” said Becky.
“But we found somewhere for the children to stay and Chris and I fronted it out. We wanted the children to be able to spend Christmas Day at home so we bailed the water out and have somehow managed to maintain a liveable space.”
The couple were frantically trying to hire in heavy duty equipment yesterday to ensure the next bout of rain doesn’t ruin their Christmas.
“The fire brigade were here for eight hours on Friday night- they said they’d never seen anything like it,” said Becky.
“Even though the rain has stopped we are still calf deep in water. Hopefully we are now better prepared for the next downpours.”