North East storms blown over for now but more bad weather forecast

MORE rain and cold weather is expected today as the region recovers from yet another day of flood misery yesterday.

The River Wear at Durham City which burst it banks due to heavy rain
The River Wear at Durham City which burst it banks due to heavy rain

MORE rain and cold weather is expected today as the region recovers from yet another day of flood misery yesterday.

In Durham, the River Wear burst its banks, submerging nearby streets and car parks, while further north large swathes of the county’s Riverside cricket ground in Chester-le-Street, where England will play Australia in the Ashes next summer, were under water.

Rail travellers had a torrid time as high winds and rain brought down overhead cables and swamped lines between Newcastle and York, and drivers fared little better, with A19 sliproads closed and cars on the A66 forced to crawl along at just 15mph. Last night, 38 flood warnings and 28 flood alerts were still in place for the North East, and the Environment Agency was warning that some rivers might not yet have peaked.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency, Mark Schofield, urged road users in the North East to think whether they really needed to travel before setting out.

“We are doing everything we can to keep our network of motorways and major A-roads open, and we are working hard to clear the floodwater from our roads and prevent further flooding from occurring,” he said.

“However, with further showers forecast and the risk of continued water run-off from surrounding fields, we cannot rule out the possibility of additional flooding.

“We urge drivers to check the weather and traffic conditions before setting out, and to delay journeys if at all possible.

“If you must travel, allow plenty of time for your journey and take extra care when driving in wet conditions.”

But even drivers who yesterday turned to the trains found their routes blocked by cancellations and long delays.

Frustrated Nichol Cunningham, 26, from South Shields, said she would have avoided coming to Newcastle Central Station if she’s known about the cancelled trains.

“When I checked on the website at home everything was running fine, and I then got to the station and they were cancelled,” she said.

Grandparents Jerry and Alessandra Martin were hoping to travel back to London after a five-week stay with their daughter and new grandchild in Whitley Bay.

But after an hour’s wait they returned to their daughter’s home, with no certainty their £100 tickets would be valid when services did start running again.

“It’s awful,” Alessandra said. “I’m supposed to be working tomorrow and all this coming and going from the station in taxis is costing a lot of money.

“We don’t know whether we have to buy more tickets or if we’ll get money back because we booked online.”

An East Coast spokesman said: “On Monday, flooding at two different points on the route, at Daw Lane Bridge in Doncaster, and Eyrholme, near Darlington, resulted in temporary speed restrictions put in place, which caused delays to services.

“The East Coast route was blocked on Tuesday morning due to problems with overhead power lines caused by flooding in the Aycliffe area just north of Darlington, and temporary speed restrictions at Eryholme, south of Darlington.

“Coaches were used between York and Newcastle until a limited service of two trains per hour was introduced shortly after midday between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh, via York, Darlington and Newcastle, with journey times extended throughout the day due to speed restrictions in place.

“We are planning to operate a full service today.

“East Coast would like to apologise to passengers for the disruption caused to services over the last two days.

“Our staff have been working hard with infrastructure provider Network Rail to ensure passengers travelling are able to complete their journeys.

“We thank customers for their patience during today’s exceptional weather conditions.”

Meanwhile, Heavy rainfall caused an “Alnwick Garden-like waterfall” in Newburn, Newcastle, as water swept between the apartment blocks of flood-stricken Spencer Court and cascaded into the Mill Vale Estate.

On Monday, water had to be pumped from a swollen stream that runs through the village’s Walbottle Brickworks nature reserve after it burst its banks.

But to get rid of the water, it had to be transferred to the already rising Winnings area, north of the culvert collapse that has caused so many problems for residents over the past six months, and then pumped by Northumberland Estates on to the open section of culvert which runs alongside Mill Vale.

And when the pumps couldn’t clear the water fast enough, the flood followed the same course as on September 25.

A Met Office forecaster said today is likely to see sunny intervals and scattered showers, with the showers, some of which could be heavy, most frequent near the coast.

The maximum temperature is 6C but with the wind chill it will feel more like 1C.

The outlook for Thursday to Saturday, he said is that the North East will be “rather cold.” The region will see sunny spells and showers, with some of the showers becoming heavy and falling as sleet or hail.

Over the highest ground showers will be wintry,” he added.

People should expect overnight inland frosts and on Saturday, the daytime temperature will feel well below freezing.

Page 3 - Elderly woman found dead after flood chaos >>

Elderly woman found dead after flood chaos

AN ELDERLY woman was found dead as police conducted house-to-house checks following continued heavy rain across Britain.

Officers said the 77-year-old’s death in north Wales was not suspicious and her death was being treated as unexplained.

Elsewhere hundreds in the UK’s smallest city St Asaph were told to pack their bags and stay with family or friends until the risk of flooding subsided.

The RNLI said it had sent an inshore lifeboat to the city, as well as a rescue boat that was used to ferry people from their homes to dry ground.

Visiting flood-ravaged homes in Buckfastleigh, Devon, Prime Minister David Cameron told residents the Government would do everything to “help them with the recovery”.

Mother-of-two Helen Ross, 37, who works at a local school in St Asaph, said the water level reached more than a foot above her floorboards, causing extensive damage to her living and dining rooms and kitchen. “I have lived here nine years and I never seen the river cause flooding like this,” she said.

“My husband phoned me at 7am to say parts of the city were being evacuated. I looked out of the window and there was water over the road and then, within an hour, it was in the house.”

Wiping away tears she added: “We’ve lost everything downstairs. It’s heartbreaking.”

St Asaph Leisure Centre was transformed into an evacuation centre where about 150 people gathered for shelter, including people with babies.

Cafe assistant Heidi Chaplin, 31, said the atmosphere was mixed but most people were “a bit down”.

“Seven feet of water came in at some places and people were boat-lifted out of their windows with babies crying,” she said.

The River Elwy, which runs through the city reached a record high of 14ft 3in yesterday, making it more than 3ft deeper than its previous record of 11ft 4in in November 2009. Two Environment Agency severe flood warnings for the river - one for St Asaph - indicating a potential danger to life, last night remained in force.

North Wales Police said the body of a woman was found at noon as they carried out house-to-house checks in the Tair Felin area. Officers said there were no suspicious circumstances and her death was being treated as unexplained. Her next-of-kin have been informed.

Three other people have died since the latest bout of wet weather struck.

A man killed when his 4x4 was submerged after getting wedged under a bridge in Somerset was reported today to have been John McNair, a 77-year-old grandfather of ten.

The Evening Standard reported that Mr McNair, the former chairman of the East Lewisham Conservative Association in London, was on his way home to his farm in Painscastle, Powys, after visiting his son in the village of Chew Stoke when he died on Thursday.


David Whetstone
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Graeme Whitfield
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