REGIONAL UPDATE: What to expect in coming days as the clear-up begins
PUBLISHED: 15:40 07 December 2013 | UPDATED: 17:03 07 December 2013
Archant Norfolk 2013
Forecasters have reassured coastal communities beginning the clear-up from the worst floods in a generation that the worst of the weather has passed, with more settled conditions over the coming days.
Last night’s tides were higher than usual but down on Thursday’s, when the biggest tidal surge for 60 years battered the coast, damaging homes, businesses and sea defences.
Today the clean-up operation continues as people return to homes evacuated on Thursday night to survey the damage.
In Hemsby, a handful of residents are still coming to terms with the harsh reality of losing their homes while the community has been called on to help out.
Lorna Bevan-Thompson, landlady of the Lacon Arms, earlier rallied people to get on to the beach and remove debris - bricks as well as belongings, from the homes that fell into the sea on Thursday night.
“We have the green light to move and clear debris on beach,” she said. “The sooner we do this the quicker we can put more protection down.”
Forecast: Is it all over?
Coastal communities in shock have been reassured there should be no repeat over the coming days of the conditions which led to Thursday’s floods.
The high winds and area of low pressure which contributed to such a high tidal surge have moved away from our coast and towards Finland, leaving more settled weather over the weekend and into next week.
Jim Bacon, a forecaster at Weatherquest at the University of East Anglia, said Thursday night was “very definitely a short, sharp cold snap”, exacerbated by unusually high spring tides and fierce north-westerly winds, which produced the risk of flooding. The weekend
would be “an improving story”, he said.
“You won’t believe how quickly it’s going to change because, although we’ve got cold air, enough for us to get a snow shower, [by Saturday] milder air will have moved in from the Atlantic and that will put us back into mild and fairly settled conditions for the whole of next week.”
Next week will bring areas of higher pressure across Norfolk from the south-west, meaning more settled conditions, said Mr Bacon.
“It will be dry and settled weather,probably fairly cloudy, with some mist and fog and maybe a touch of frost,” he added.
Beach residents and business owners have been pulling together for several months now in a bid to raise money for DIY erosion defences. They were installing gabions – metal cages filled with rocks, on Thursday afternoon, just hours before the storm surge hit.
The destruction on Thursday night - when seven homes on the Marrams were damaged and the old Hemsby lifeboat shed was pulled down by the tide, served as a reminder of what they are fighting against.
Norfolk County Council says it is working with partners including district councils, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, the Environment Agency and Norfolk Constabulary to make sure the recovery is as swift and efficient as possible.
And the weekend weather will allow crews to get on with the work of rebuilding communities, according to forecasters who say Thursday’s flooding was the result of a unusual mix of severe weather conditions.
High tides last night passed without the serious damage seen on Thursday night, when residents of more than 10,000 homes were advised to evacuate and more than 600 people stayed in rest centres as floods battered the coast.
But the weather claimed its first life, as a Lowestoft lorry driver was named the victim of a crash in high winds in Scotland on Thursday morning.
Robert Dellow, 54, was killed when his HGV overturned in 140mph winds at Bathgate, in West Lothian, near Edinburgh. He was believed to have worked for Harleston-based Neil Bomford Haulage.
Emergency services were keeping a watching brief along the coastline, with no further damage reported, and calm conditions seen in Wells, King’s Lynn and Cromer.
Thousands of people were allowed to return to their homes yesterday afternoon, as the Environment Agency flood warnings were downgraded.
A phased return was given the go-ahead after the high tide of the morning did not lead to any major incidents and the mopping-up operation began.
However, authorities have warned that there is still a potential for normal winter flooding to affect certain areas and in particular the Broads river system.
The famous pier at Cromer is expected to be closed for days after sustaining serious damage, while at Wells, beach huts were swept out to sea and parts of the sea wall washed away.
At Horsey, volunteers made efforts to save seal pups in the dunes after counting more than 250 missing following the surge. Only 177 of the pups, which cannot swim until they shed their white fur, were counted at the beach yesterday, down from 440 the day before.
Emergency arrangements remained in place last night, but tried and tested plans to deal with the flooding were successful, said Norfolk County Council, which also pledged that “all necessary work” would be carried out so that schools used as temporary rest centres could be reopened to pupils on Monday.
Flood defences in affected areas are described as “battered and bruised”, and in need of repair.
John Ellis, Norfolk County Council’s chairman of the Norfolk Resilience Forum Programme Board, said: “Thankfully, the second tidal surge [yesterday morning] was not as severe as initially anticipated which means that people can now begin to return home to their properties.
“There may still be some hazards caused by flooding and we would remind people to continue to listen to the advice of the emergency services and heed the ongoing public health information to ensure that they stay safe.
“Support will be available for more vulnerable residents to ensure that they can return home safely. Plans are also in place to support anyone who is unable to return home due to the flood or storm damage.”
The number of severe flood warnings in East Anglia dropped from 27 yesterday morning to seven yesterday evening, but none in Norfolk or Suffolk. Last night, all were downgraded to flood warnings, meaning a risk of flooding but not of loss of life.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue service attended 116 incidents including nine flood rescues on Thursday night, including King’s Lynn, Haddiscoe, Hunstanton, Blakeney, Salthouse, Bacton, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. And personnel from the Light Dragoons in Swanton Morley helped build defences in Yarmouth on Thursday night.
Deputy chief constable Charlie Hall, who had been leading the multi-agency response, said: “This has been a serious incident which could have been far worse had it not been for the support and cooperation of the public and all the agencies working to keep people safe.
“In places, water levels were higher than those experienced in the flooding of 1953, when many people lost their lives. Thankfully that has not been the case on this occasion, [thanks to] a combination of improved defences in place and the concerted efforts of the community, the emergency services and the agencies that have worked to support the evacuation and keep people informed.
“The widespread evacuation was based on the high risk of severe flooding and was essential in ensuring the public’s safety. A night-time rescue operation would have placed both the public and emergency services at far greater risk.”