People evacuated in Lancashire as rain causes widespread flooding and power cuts in north-west England and north Wales
November 23, 2017 — Firefighters have rescued more than 70 people as torrential rain caused widespread flooding and power blackouts across north-west England and north Wales.
Parts of north Lancashire, including Lancaster and the village of Galgate, were the worst affected as heavy rain fell in areas badly hit by Storm Desmond two years ago.
Emergency crews received about 500 flood-related calls and attended more than 100 incidents in Lancashire overnight, evacuating 30 people from their homes and rescuing 20 horses from the rising flood water.
The Met Office said about 43mm (1.7in) of rain had fallen in 24 hours in parts of Lancashire, while further north in Cumbria about half a month’s rain, 89mm (3.5in), was recorded in 36 hours at Shap.
Hundreds of homes on Lancashire’s Fylde coast, near Blackpool, were without electricity on Thursday morning as residents woke up to power blackouts, travel disruption and school closures.
The Environment Agency issued 25 flood alerts and warnings across the north-west of England on Thursday morning, with a further 12 in place in north Yorkshire and the north-east of England.
There were early signs of widespread travel disruption across north Lancashire due to the closure of a number of busy commuter roads and rail services into Lancaster. A number of schools across the county have also closed due to flooding.
Roads are shut and rail services have also been suspended amid the floods in north Wales, and snow is forecast across Scotland.
Cat Smith, the Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, said it was the worst flooding in her constituency in her memory. The weather had affected Galgate, on the banks of the river Conder, worse than Storm Desmond had in December 2015, she said.
“We’ve had flooding before but this is unprecedented in terms of the number of homes flooded,” she said, estimating that up to 100 homes may have been badly damaged.
She said she was angry about the severity of the effects of the flooding and that she had recently raised concerns about drainage with Lancashire county council but not received a reply.
On the 4th October I wrote to @LancashireCC expressing concerns over blocked drains and was promised a reply within six weeks. That’s passed and I’ve heard nothing and observe drains blocked throughout Lancaster and Fleetwood. I’m angry tonight.
— Cat Smith (@CatSmithMP) November 22, 2017
Smith said she was out in Lancaster on Wednesday night helping people recover what they could from their homes. “I’ve just never seen so many homes flooded,” she said.
“In Galgate, it is definitely worse than Storm Desmond. There have been flooding issues but I’ve never known the A6 flood and all the houses along the A6. The city centre of Lancaster is not as badly affected as Storm Desmond, but the suburbs are probably worse affected.”
Lancashire county council said its staff had worked around the clock delivering sandbags and clearing drains, and would continue to clear debris and assess damage.
Keith Iddon, the council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “My sympathies go out to everyone affected by last night’s flooding. The problems were caused by the sheer volume of rainwater. We saw very high river levels, including the river Conder breaking its banks in Galgate, which meant that water pouring off the land into drains on the roads had nowhere to go.
Fortunately, when the rain stopped at around 4am this morning, we saw the flooding clear quite quickly.”
Sheena Engineer, national flood duty manager at the Environment Agency, said its staff had protected more than 6,000 properties across Cumbria and Lancashire overnight on Wednesday.
“We’ll continue to provide support to those affected today, working with partners to assess the situation and check flood defences,” she said “Although the situation is improving, we urge people to take care, not to drive through flood water.”
Around 500 homes were without power in the Blackpool, Thornton and Poulton areas of north Lancashire on Thursday morning, said a spokesman for Electricity North West.
In Galgate, residents were forced to flee their homes and stay overnight in local pubs as the waist-deep flood water invaded the village.
“I’ve been here for 10 years and I’ve not seen anything like this,” said Samantha Hammond. “Even in Storm Desmond we didn’t get it this bad. The pub cellar is nine foot under water.”
Hammond, who lives on the village’s badly flooded main road, said whenever a car drove past it was like “a tidal wave coming into your house”.
Her friend, Stacey Gamble, told BBC Radio Lancashire: “It was awful. I had to go [and] help people. The police weren’t stopping the traffic and I think the police could’ve done a lot more.
“The traffic was making the flooding worse in your house. We tried to stop it but you just gave up because it kept coming in.”
She added: “It was waist-deep. The time I went out in it to get the last few bits I could save, it was up to my waist. The last time I went in the house the fridge-freezer was on its side, the bins were all out, the TV was damaged. Everything was just under water, it was that bad.”
Maggie Wild, whose cellar was flooded, said her cooker, washing machine, dishwasher and boiler were “all gone”. She told the BBC: “[I] came home and thought it is pretty high and it is still going to rain all night so I better start moving stuff out of the way.
“It just came in faster and faster … and there came a point when we were bucketing it out and we had pumps going on it … It was bucket versus river, and the river won.”
People were urged not to call emergency services unless there was a threat to life as crews continued to respond to a backlog of incidents.
The rail operator Northern tweeted that flooding had stopped services between Lancaster and Morecambe, Carlisle, Oxenholme and Windermere.
A southbound stretch of the M6 in south Cumbria was reduced to one lane on Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, while North Yorkshire police said a number of vehicles had been recovered from flood waters in the Yorkshire Dales as the A65 was closed.
In Cumbria, Carlisle United tweeted pictures showing that one corner of its Brunton Park football ground had been flooded.
The 18,000-capacity stadium sits on the bank of the River Petteril and near the River Eden, which had burst its banks on Thursday morning as the Environment Agency declared a flood warning for the area.
Very busy morning – as you can see we do have some minor, localised flooding, but we have been here before and, with the forecast as it is, we think and hope everything will be business as normal. Updates as required over the next few days #cufc pic.twitter.com/cZafrgNI33
— Carlisle United FC (@officialcufc) November 23, 2017
The stadium appeared to have avoided the scale of damage wrought by Storm Desmond, when record-level downpours caused havoc across Cumbria and saw floodwater rise to above the crossbar on the Brunton Park pitch.
In Scotland, wintry showers were forecast to bring 18mm-50mm (0.7in to 2in) of snow to many parts of Scotland and up to 20cm (7.9in) on the highest ground, the Met Office said.
Snow was beginning to accumulate on high ground in Scotland on Thursday, with 43mm (1.7in) measured in Aviemore and 30mm (1.2in) in Altnaharra.
A yellow “be aware” weather warning for snow kicked in just after midnight for the Scottish Highlands, Western Isles, Grampian, Strathclyde and Central, Tayside and Fife regions.
The warning, in place until 1pm on Thursday, said that some roads and railways were likely to be affected, with possible longer journey times for road, bus and train services.
In north Wales, the police and fire service appealed to the public to only dial 999 during flooding if there was a risk to life. The Isle of Anglesey county council said major flooding had hit Llangefni, where images showed water rushing down Church Street in the town centre.