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Misery of the floods returns to Devon and Cornwall

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 15, 2012

  • The seafront in Torquay, is closed off as high tides, strong winds and heavy rain bring chaos back to the region.

  • A south easterly gale hits the south coast at Lyme Regis in Dorset, forcing the fishing fleet to stay in harbour

  • Maisie the goat at Maria's Animal Shelter in Probus, Cornwall, who suffers from arthritis as a result of standing on saturated ground. She is now wearing Wellington boots to help her condition

  • A tanker leaked thousands of gallons of petrol on the A38, closing the road for hours PAGE 6 Picture: Paul Slater

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The Westcountry remains on flood alert again today after another 24 hours of downpours and strong winds.

High tides, gale force winds and persistent rain led to a continuing risk of coastal flooding across several parts of the South West.

One fifth of a month's rain fell on already saturated ground in Devon and Cornwall, as the wet winter continued to wreak havoc in the region.

Ten flood warnings and a further 26 flood alerts remained in place last night following the latest deluge.

More heavy rain is expected to fall over the weekend, but conditions should improve today with sunny spells forecast in between showers.

Thundery showers mixed with hail are expected to hit parts of Cornwall, although brighter conditions should be seen elsewhere in the region.

The conditions yesterday hampered recovery operations after a broken down petrol tanker fell from a recovery vehicle, closing the A38 in Cornwall for many hours, pictured right.

The heaviest rainfall yesterday was recorded in Plymouth and at Culdrose in Cornwall, where 25mm fell in a 12-hour period from the early hours of yesterday – around 20% of the average monthly December rainfall.

Some 23mm of rain fell in Okehampton and 22mm was recorded in Bodmin, while Exeter saw 19mm. Across Devon and Cornwall an average of 15mm of rain fell yesterday, although much more was recorded on the coasts.

A Met Office forecaster said the worst of the weather had been "absolutely tropical" yesterday morning. He said: "A big weather system has been in place across most of the country. In the South West that system brought quite a lot of rainfall in a short time period.

"We saw around one fifth of the expected rainfall for December fall in 12 hours across Devon and Cornwall."

Some 30 homes and businesses were flooded overnight yesterday in the Cornish coastal town of Looe as a band of heavy rain swept in from the Atlantic.

High spring tides closed the seafront at Torquay and forced the cancellations of train services in Devon as waves swept over the sea wall at Dawlish.

Rail passengers had their journeys disrupted as First Great Western yesterday blamed the seawater on delays of up to two hours due.

Torbay councillor Mike Morey wrote on Twitter: "Sea Front closed in Torquay due to strong winds and high tides." The seafront road was reopened at 11am.

A number of shops in Kingsbridge were affected by flooding as warnings remained in place across several areas of South Devon, Somerset and Dorset.

Huge waves in Penzance forced the closure of the promenade, while Fowey and Mevagissey were also hit by floodwater.

Tidal surges of up to half a metre above expected spring tides caused overtopping and spray either side of high tide at some coastal locations.

The misery also continued for residents on the Somerset Levels, which have been hit by a series of floods this year.

Heavy downpours and strong winds were seen across the South West overnight, but forecasters said the worst of the weather is likely to have passed.

Gale force winds affected the Scilly Isles overnight with speeds of 56mph, while Berry Head in Devon saw gusts of 49mph.

Gusting winds are forecast for many of the region's coasts today, while temperatures are expected to remain mild at 10C.

A Met Office forecaster said: "The last part of the weather system should have pushed out the way by Saturday. Much of the persistent rain we saw should clear leaving a sunny and showery weekend.

"But we are still watching the high spring tides where areas of coastline remain on alert."

The Environment Agency warned people to stay away from the region's seafronts to avoid powerful waves.

A spokesman said: "The strong winds and high tides can be quite dangerous for people walking along the coast, with waves breaking on to coastal paths."

Agency staff checked flood defences and closed flood tidal gates at Truro, Polperro and Plymouth.

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service supported agency staff who made the public aware of risks through social media and text messages.

The agency said ground in parts of the South West remains waterlogged from last month's heavy rainfall.

Nick Roseveare, of the Environment Agency, said: "We are keeping a close eye on conditions around our coastline and will issue flood warnings if the risk of flooding increases."

A spokesman described the flooding as "pretty low-key" .

He said: "There has been a little bit of flooding in West Looe, about 30 businesses, that is due to a tidal event.

"We are not worried about anything forecast this weekend. And many of the warnings and alerts are likely to be downgraded."

Rachel Vince, a meteorologist at the weather forecasting service MeteoGroup, said: "Through the weekend the UK is looking at a relatively mild picture compared to recent days, with temperatures in the double figures.

"The wet weather looks like being largely confined to the South and West, where we'll see a mixture of sunshine and showers.

"Unfortunately there is no significant dry weather down in the South West, but the precipitation will become more showery rather than the persistent rain they had through the night."

The region is still struggling to recover from last month's floods when two people died and hundreds of homes became flooded.

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