Communities across Norfolk and Suffolk urged to brace themselves for severe weather

Stormy weather at Walcott earlier this year. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Stormy weather at Walcott earlier this year. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Communities across Norfolk are today being urged to brace themselves for strong winds and flooding as forecasters issued severe weather warnings across the county.

Winds of up to 60mph are set to smash their way across the region prompting The Met Office to issue an amber warning for wind across Norfolk - urging people to be prepared - and yellow warnings for Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, alerting people to be on their guard.

Meanwhile Norfolk is set to be hit by severe tides which could even be more significant than the tidal surge in 2007 which resulted in damage to the coastline at Cromer and flooding in Great Yarmouth.

At 6.04am on Friday, November 2007, the height of the tide in Great Yarmouth was at the highest it had been since the devastating North Sea surge of 1953, where 307 people in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Essex and Kent lost their lives.

The Environment Agency (EA) has so far issued almost 20 flood alerts - meaning flooding is possible - in the Anglian region but is preparing to issue flood warnings, some at its highest level of severe, for tides expected around the east coast tonight and tomorrow.

It said this afternoon that the Hunstanton and Heacham areas, Wells Quay and Salthouse are especially at risk from high waters, as a combination of strong winds and high tides threaten severe flooding.

High waters are expected along the east coast between 7.30pm tomorrow at South Ferriby, Lincolnshire, and 2.15am Friday at Southend, Essex, and again between 7.45am Friday at South Ferriby and 2.45pm Friday at Southend.

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Gary Watson, area coastal engineer at the EA, said: 'At the moment we're pretty concerned about the north Norfolk coast and also rural Suffolk and Essex.'

Mr Watson said he expected gale force winds to result in 'significant storm damage' in the region as well as 'significant flooding' throughout Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex and urged people to be prepared.

He said: 'We recommend that people have a look on our website and look at Floodline to check for local conditions in your area. We're working closely with police and emergency services.'

Environment Agency staff were out yesterday double checking flood defences and the EA will be warning homes at risk of flooding from south of the Humber to north of the Thames to be prepared to take action.

Sue Longstone, EA regional director, said: 'We are concerned the predicted wind and tides could lead to flooding especially along the Norfolk and Essex coasts.

'Once the situation is more definite we will be issuing flood warnings if appropriate, but now is the time for people to check they are prepared in case of flooding and to keep a close eye on their local situation.'

People living near to or visiting the coast have been warned by HM Coastguard to be aware that the strong winds will make it dangerous in certain areas.

A spokesman said: 'Just avoid walking along cliff paths and be aware that there will be high seas and it could be dangerous near the coast. Avoid walking where there's big waves because you could be swept away quite easily.

'The tides are going to be higher than usual with the winds as well. It will make it quite dangerous.'

Emergency planners from the police, councils, EA and fire service met yesterday and will be working together should any serious incidents result from the bad weather.

People living in Suffolk are also being urged to brace themselves for the worst of the bad weather which could hit there and in Essex too.

Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for public protection, said: 'We are working with colleagues from the Environment Agency and the Met Office to ensure we have the most up to date information and can then take any necessary steps to support Suffolk communities.

'We have tried and tested plans in place to respond to this type of incident and have been working through these today with colleagues from the fire and rescue service, police, health and other key agencies to make sure we are in the best possible position to respond should the need arise.

'Further information from the Met Office and Environment Agency can be accessed via the county council's website.'

Phil Garner, forecaster at Norwich-based Weatherquest, said tomorrow's predicted gusts were being stirred up by a 'deep area' of low pressure.

'The strongest winds (will come) just after midday and will last until about 5pm,' he added. 'It's really going to be blustery, we're probably looking at gusts of 40 - 45mph inland and 55mph on the coast.

'At the same time we will see a cold front coming through. I don't think it's going to bring any snow, maybe just a little bit of sleet and maybe an isolated sleety hail shower for Thursday night, along the north east tip of the coast.'

Met Office forecasters have said gusts could reach up to 80mph in areas covered by an amber warning and winds could hit 90mph in exposed areas of north and west Scotland.

Drivers are also being urged to take care during the predicted wild weather and a train operator has warned passengers to allow extra time for their journeys tomorrow.

East Coast will run a revised timetable throughout Thursday as large parts of the route are expected to be affected by heavy wind and rain, and travellers are being urged to check the latest information before setting out.

The AA meanwhile, is warning motorists to take special care on the roads, particularly along open stretches, over bridges or gaps in hedges,

exposed coastal roads or when passing high-sided vehicles.

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