December 10 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 11, 2013
Homes on part of the north Norfolk coast were evacuated after high winds and strong North Sea waves battered sea walls and defences.
The seaside village of Walcott, which has suffered flooding in the past, was again at the front line as emergency officials concentrated on protecting residents.
But there was no major flooding to homes despite the dramatic waves crashing onto the B1159 Coast Road, which was closed yesterday morning, and the evacuation of some of the village homes.
More than 30 people from the 400-strong community, as well as a few cats and dogs, spent yesterday morning in the Lighthouse Inn on the edge of Walcott.
One of the evacuees Jenny Robinson, 65, from Helena Road, said: “It has been very well organised. We were informed at 6pm on Wednesday night that we would be evacuated. It is one of those things and because we are Brits we take things in our stride.”
Residents on Helena Road, St Helen’s Road and Poplar Drive and Walcott Caravan Park were the only people who were warned by the 16 volunteer Walcott flood wardens to leave their homes ahead of high tide at 10.45am.
As well as the flood wardens, emergency service workers included police, the independent Mundesley Inshore Lifeboat, firefighters and coastguard helped the community.
Paul Woolston, co-ordinator of the Walcott flood wardens, said: “I am not worried. I have seen it three times worse than this.”
Farm worker Mr Woolston, 55, who has been a volunteer flood warden for 40 years said yesterday’s 20ft waves were “mild” and the homes were saved by the westerly wind.
The last big evacuation was in 2007 when there were 150 people in the Lighthouse at 3.30am.
Walcott would have suffered more if the wind was blowing in a north westerly direction.
“It is 100pc important the flood wardens are present because we know the village and how the tide acts,” Mr Woolston added.
The high tide died down after 90 minutes and he added the wardens would monitor the situation because another high tide was expected at 11pm last night.
There was no Environment Agency flood warning for Walcott last night.
Richard Cook, civil contingencies manager for North Norfolk District Council, said he was really pleased with how the evacuation operation was carried out.
“It is all about pre-warning. I would much rather people were sitting in the pub and they were happy,” he said.
Mr Cook added the Walcott incident showed “community resilience” in action and it was important for villages to talk about how they could help themselves in emergencies.
The Environment Agency flood warning was issued three days ago.
Stuart Richards, 62, who was one of the residents in the pub with his wife Janet, said: “This year was nothing like the 2007 floods. During that time we were wading through water three hours before high tide and were only told to get out of the house 10 minutes before high tide. This is a more normal flood situation. I’m grateful for the flood wardens in situations like this, we have had plenty of notice this time.”
Following the 2007 flood they could not move back into their bungalow for a year after it was damaged by 3ft of water.
“Since then we have been more cautious. In the past we would not have come down to the pub but we want to stay on the safe side,” he added.
Teaching assistant Janet Ellis, 55, from Poplar Drive, said: “You have to take the rough with the smooth. We chose to live here and it is lovely in the summer, but nowhere is perfect.
“The organisation has been really good and the flood wardens are doing a grand job. Without them I don’t know what we would do. It would help to have flood sirens though. Walcott is a small community and we do look after each other.”
Trixie Fenn, 82, has lived on the Coast Road for 20 years and said she would like the sirens to return.
She said: “I love living here. I am opposite the sea and am never lonely. It is a friendly community. It has been jolly in the pub.”
One of the evacuees in the Lighthouse included a woman with her four pet cats. Other people brought their dogs.
Everyone received sandwiches and teas and coffees and there was a friendly atmosphere in the pub.
Publican Steve Bullimore said: “It is what a pub is for. People who live in a village like this are your neighbours.”
Despite the large waves Walcott Stores on the Coast Road remained open but the nearby Kingfisher Café was shut on Wednesday afternoon and yesterday morning because of the flood warning.
Café owner Graham French said: “It has been an awesome site but quite dangerous. Walcott is a lovely environment to work in but you have to be aware and take heed of weather warnings.”
■ At Cromer the sea around the pier was already being whipped up into towering waves and white foaming surf.
The seafront was deserted apart from a handful of hardy workmen and dog walkers.
And in the narrow wind tunnel of Jetty Street the wind almost took people’s breath away.
Flood gates were also closed at Bacton and Mundesley as a precaution.
■ The Environment Agency has issued flood alerts for the River Waveney from Ellingham to Breydon Water, River Yare from Thorpe St Andrew to Breydon Water, Rivers Bure from Wroxham Bridge, River Ant from Honing and Thurne from Hickling to Breydon Water.