Storm Christoph: River levels ‘exceptionally high’ with flooding still a threat

Residents in parts of England are being urged to prepare for further flooding into the weekend in the wake of Storm Christoph.

The Environment Agency warned of “exceptionally high river levels” following days of heavy rainfall, with around 400 properties across the country flooded so far.

Care home residents were among those evacuated in several areas across the North West, while, in Wales, a helicopter crew rescued a family trapped in their home due to fast-flowing floodwater.

Winter weather Jan 22nd 2021
Winter weather Jan 22nd 2021

Flooding remains a threat to many areas in northern and central England, particularly along parts of the River Severn, according to the Environment Agency.

This includes around Ironbridge in Shropshire, where Telford and Wrekin Council said river levels were at 6.3m as of 10am on Friday and “still rising”, and Bewdley, Worcestershire.

A yellow weather warning of snow and ice covering large swathes of the UK has been issued by the Met Office, which is due to be in place from 4pm on Friday through to Saturday morning.

The Environment Agency said teams on the ground were operating flood defences, flood storage reservoirs and putting up temporary barriers where needed to help protect communities.

Over 27,500 properties in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, where hundreds were evacuated from their homes, have already been protected, it added.

Dr Kate Marks, flood duty manager, said: “We urge people to keep away from swollen rivers and not to drive through flood water – it is often deeper than it looks and just 30cm of flowing water is enough to float your car.”

Shropshire Council said the River Severn peaked in Shrewsbury at Welsh Bridge on Friday morning, with a “handful” of vulnerable residents who could be impacted moved to a shelter.

“They have all been given lateral flow coronavirus tests to guarantee their safety and that of others,” the council added.

Two severe flood warnings, signifying danger to life, were in place at 3pm on Friday for the River Dee at Farndon and the Lower Dee Valley from Llangollen to Trevalyn Meadows.

There were also 137 flood warnings and 121 less serious flood alerts in place in England, and three flood warnings and 11 flood alerts issued in Wales.

On a visit to Northwich in Cheshire, an area badly affected by the adverse weather, Environment Secretary George Eustice said there were concerns about further flooding next week.

He said that authorities were “watching closely” as water moves through the river system, including areas in Yorkshire, such as along the River Don and parts of the River Aire.

Winter weather Jan 22nd 2021
Winter weather Jan 22nd 2021

“At the moment we think it’s going to be OK but we’re watching it closely,” he told reporters.

“The thing that concerns us most is that late next week we are expecting more rainfall, that falls on wet, soggy ground.

“It is possible that we therefore could have some additional challenges in a week’s time.”

Cheshire Constabulary said on Twitter that despite drier conditions on Friday, a number of roads in the county remain closed due to flooding.

A spokesman for the force said there had been about 100 people evacuated in Warrington, 48 in Northwich and four in Farndon.

Around 40 residents were assisted out of the Weaver Court care home in Northwich by fire crews with dinghies on Thursday afternoon, as most of the town centre laid under water.

A number of agencies are currently involved in the evacuation of Weaver Court, Northwich. Due to the numbers involved there are a lot of vehicles and personnel on Chester Way and London Road. We are asking pedestrians to please stay away from the area.

— Northwich Police (@PoliceNorthwich) January 21, 2021

Shortly after 11pm on Thursday, the HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Caernarfon assisted emergency services in rescuing a family from an isolated property near Rossett, Wrexham.

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service said it had attempted to make the rescue by boat, but crews were unable to access the home due to fast-flowing floodwater and conditions too dangerous to navigate in darkness.

HM Coastguard said two adults and a child were airlifted to safety by the helicopter and passed into the care of emergency services at the scene.

Elsewhere, around 80 residents were evacuated and a major incident was declared when homes were flooded in Skewen near Neath in South Wales on Thursday evening.

Local authorities in Wales will offer payments of up to £1,000 per household to support those affected by flooding, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.