Lowestoft’s community spirit praised as high tides pass without major incident

High tides in Lowestoft. Pictures: MICK HOWES

High tides in Lowestoft. Pictures: MICK HOWES - Credit: Archant

As the tides rose, the town collectively held its breath.

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But today leaders praised the public, as well as emergency and environmental agencies, for their community-spirited response to severe flood warnings as fears of a repeat of the 2013 tidal surge loomed.

The alerts first came earlier in the week as Waveney District Council announced it would, for the first time, erect the temporary £300,000 flood defences bought last year to protect the town.

The warnings got more serious around 5pm on Thursday (January 12), with the Lowestoft seafront and docks identified as being at 'severe risk of flooding', along with the north bank of Lake Lothing and Oulton Broad, near Mutford Lock.

As memories of the 2013 tidal surge – which caused extensive damage in the town – were brought back, businesses took no chances and battened down the hatches ready for the worst.

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Lings Honda moved vehicles to higher ground, while East Coast Cinema also moved equipment and the Joseph Conrad Wetherspoons pub refused stock deliveries in case the cellars flooded.

Police later visited homes and businesses warning them to evacuate before the worst of the floods was forecast to hit at around 9.30pm on Friday (January 13).

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Rest centres were set up at Carlton Colville Community Centre and the Waterlane Leisure Centre for those with nowhere else to go, with many people choosing to stay with friends and family.

As the moment of truth approached, sightseers gathered around the Bascule bridge which, along with Mutford Lock, was closed by police as a safety precaution.

The temporary flood barriers in place in Lowestoft. Picture: MARK BOGGIS

The temporary flood barriers in place in Lowestoft. Picture: MARK BOGGIS - Credit: Archant

There was trepidation as the water levels rose extremely high, almost coming over the top of the bank.

Late-night stores close to the Bascule bridge, such as the Joseph Conrad and McDonalds, closed early and moved furniture, as well placed sandbags by their doors.

But although there were dramatic pictures of waves crashing into the sea defence rocks at Children's Corner and the North Beach, the calm winds meant the high tides passed without too many problems.

The Bascule bridge was reopened shortly after 10am, with Mutford Lock bridge opened around an hour later.

Leader of Waveney District Council Colin Law.

Leader of Waveney District Council Colin Law. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Lowestoft PC Edward Frazer Tweeted that there was a 'really good atmosphere and #communityspirit'.

Waveney District Council leader Colin Law, who visited the rest centres during the day, said: 'Overall I was very pleased with how the whole support system was put in place.

'I generally thought there was a good team effort throughout Norfolk and Suffolk,' he said.

'From the control centres, right down to the rest centres and the staff at Waterlane, everybody played their part and they did a wonderful job.'

He also believed residents heeded the warnings and, generally speaking, did not take any unnecessary risks.

'2013 was a wake-up call and people didn't want to experience that again,' Mr Law said.

And he said the fact the sea defence rocks brought in by barge from Norway about two years ago held firm vindicated the district council's approach to flood defences.

'As far as I'm concerned, it has proved us right in the investment we made,' Mr Law said.

'The flood protection scheme was deployed on Wednesday and although the water didn't come up that far, I have full confidence it would've coped effectively.'

After the December 2013 tidal surge local councils, Anglian Water and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) came together to provide funding for long-term sea defences.

The aim is that the permanent tidal scheme - which is part of the £25million Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Project - will be in place by 2020.

Mr Law said after this week's warnings: 'It totally vindicates and justifies the way we're going with flood protection.

'It is absolutely necessary. This is going to be a more frequent happening in my belief and something we have to be prepared for.

'We have to ensure we protect businesses and residents. We have to ensure we are ready for it. It is totally the right way to go.'

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