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Rivers on flood warnings as storms lash Westcountry

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 25, 2011

  • Firefighters help a motorist out of flash flood water in Mevagissey

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Heavy winds and torrential rain lashed the Westcountry – leaving many parts flooded, properties damaged and trees uprooted across the region.

Home owners and businesses in Cornwall – which bore the brunt of the severe weather – were again counting the cost of serious flooding, after storms hit yesterday, while parts of Devon also took a battering.

Emergency lines were red hot as the intense rain storm passed over the region yesterday with more than 300 callers reporting fallen trees, surface water and blocked drains by mid afternoon.

Flood alerts remained in place at 14 locations last night – including every Cornish river – and communities braced themselves for more problems overnight after forecasters predicted an entire month of rain would fall in just one day.

In the worst-hit areas, half the typical rainfall for October – more than 50mm (2in) – was recorded in a six-hour spell.

The centre of Mevagissey – which was visited by Prince Charles and David Cameron after hundreds of homes and business were damaged last November – was again underwater as was Trewoon, near St Austell.

Fire crews pumped water from a house and pub and cars were stuck in the car park by a deluge which caught many residents unaware.

One of the victims of the 2010 devastation, the Ship Inn, was again forced to close, losing hundreds of pounds of half-term holiday trade, when the bar was left under 10in of water.

Landlady Kim Barker, said staff had been "wading through water" as they tried to clean up in time for the evening.

"When I walked in my heart sank and I thought 'oh no not again' but luckily it is nowhere near as bad as last time," she added.

"The fortunate thing is that it didn't happen overnight so we were able to rescue a few things, furniture and stock.

"We were given warnings for the middle of the week and have sandbags ready, but not for today."

Cornwall Council said 50 teams totalling about 100 workers had been responding to incidents during the day and staff would remain on standby throughout the night.

The authority said its neighbourhood services team received 326 calls in eight hours, 166 of which related to flooding and blocked drains.

"Council staff have been working with other agencies to assist residents in the worst affected areas, including Mevagissey, Roche and Bugle," the spokesman added.

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service was on standby throughout the day, with crews receiving calls to 10 incidents, including reports of flooded properties in Mevagissey and Roche.

In Devon, Torquay seafront was shut to traffic, with Torre Abbey and roads in Torbay also closed.

About four miles of traffic queues were reported along a stretch of the westbound A30 – between Exeter's A377 Alphington Junction and the B3260 to Okehampton – because of surface water.

Drivers also faced flooding and surface water on the A38 in Liskeard around the A390 junction and between the A389 junction in Wadebridge and the B3266 junction in Camelford.

Strong winds and high tides in south Devon increased the risk of localised flooding in coastal areas.

Tidal gates were closed on waterways at Beesands in south Devon, Sutton Harbour in Plymouth, Polperro in south east Cornwall, and Copperhouse in Hayle, west Cornwall.

The Environment Agency issued flood warnings on the Rivers Tamar, Fal, Fowey, St Austell and Par, and anticipated a further 50mm (2in) to fall in west Devon by 8pm last night.

The agency had warned that particularly heavy and persistent rain over Cornwall could cause rivers to burst their banks. It said the Lost Gardens of Heligan, in Cornwall, saw 50mm (2in) of rain in just six hours.

A spokesman said the storm had been "intense" but that flooding had all been due to surface water rather than overtopping rivers and that damage to properties had been "better than expected" earlier in the day.

However, in a statement last night, it urged people to protect themselves and their properties and "remain vigilant" throughout the night. A spokesman added: "There has been very high rainfall in Bodmin, Newquay and St Austell but nothing like as bad as last year – we have issued flood alerts but not warnings."

The Met Office had warned some areas of Devon and Cornwall could have as much as 150mm (5.9in) of rain yesterday.

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