Sigh of relief as flood defences appear to hold firm against tidal surge along Norfolk and Waveney coast
PUBLISHED: 22:17 13 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:43 01 August 2017
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Flood defences appear to have held firm against one of the largest tidal surges to hit the east coast in recent years.
Thousands of homes on the coast were evacuated throughout the day with residents taking refuge at emergency rest centres.
More than 5,000 homes around Great Yarmouth were evacuated as the east coast was expected to take the brunt of the high tides.
Two hundred soldiers and an additional 50 police officers were deployed to Great Yarmouth to help with evacuations.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service drew on national resources to double their capacity, including more high volume pumps and boats. 40 personnel from nine fire services were drafted in to assist in Norfolk including from South Wales, Herefordshire and Oxfordshire.
The Bascule Bridge in Lowestoft and the Mutford Lock in Oulton Broad were closed around 8pm this evening, ahead of the tidal surge reaching its peak.
Emergency rest centres were set up at Cliff Park Ormiston Academy, in Gorleston, Caister Academy, and Christ Church in King’s Street, and manned by British Red Cross volunteers.
The Cromer tide gauge site recorded its highest ever water level since opening in 1984, with a storm surge of 1.5m above the high tide.
Cley bird reserve was flooded by 7.30pm, and homes at Hemsby at risk of erosion are teetering dangerously on the cliff edge.
There had been concerns the storm surge would have the same devastating impacts as the floods of 1953.
Thousands were forced to leave their homes in December four years ago, as tides in parts of the North Sea reached higher levels than during the devastating floods of 1953.
In Hemsby, near Great Yarmouth, seven cliff-top homes and a lifeboat station was also washed into the sea. In Cromer the iconic pier was snapped in two.
In an email seen by this newspaper, the Coastguard has warned that similar levels of flooding to 2013 are expected in the Yarmouth area.
Between 5,000 and 7,000 properties thought to be at risk are being visited by officers at Cobholm Island and Southtown areas, West bank of the River Yare between Gorleston and Ferry Hill, East bank of the River Yare from South Denes to South Quay and riverside areas between Runham Vauxhall to Scare Gap.
The decision has been taken to evacuate more homes in the Northgate Street area of Great Yarmouth.
During the flooding pharmacies will be providing NHS funded emergency supplies to those who cannot reach their usual pharmacies or doctors surgeries and are in need of medication.
The Environment Agency has issued 42 flood alerts - including 12 severe warnings - across the county.
Later today, a combination of high tides and extreme weather conditions are expected to cause large waves along the coast.
The high tide is due at Great Yarmouth at around 9.30pm today, while in Lowestoft it is expected 15 minutes later.
The Cromer tide gauge site has exceeded it’s highest recorded level after opening in 1984, as the storm surge reached 1.5m at the top of high tide.
MORE: Council leader’s message to public ahead of tidal surge
In West Norfolk, police have identified 20 properties at risk in Heacham and Snettisham, and a precautionary evacuation notice has been issued.
The gates are also being closed to the quay in King’s Lynn, but there is said to be no predicted risk of flooding in the town.
Meanwhile, along the north Norfolk coast, police are most concerned about the villages of Salthouse, Cley-next-the-Sea and Walcott.
Police said resources are in place to evacuate the at-risk areas along the stretch of the north coast if necessary.
People are advised to take care near coastal defences and avoid coastal paths and promenades.
It is anticipated disruption is likely to last for 12 hours and local communities will be kept updated throughout.
The latest reports from Wells-next-the-sea suggest the tide has now gone out without causing much damage this morning.
Blakeney Main Street flooded, but Salthouse is said to be safe and people living in both villages have removed their flood barriers.
In Waveney two rest centres will be opened at Water Lane Leisure Centre and Carlton Colville Community Centre in Lowestoft. Coach pick up points will be available from 2pm at Lowestoft Railway station, South Beach Pavilion, Nicholas Everitt Park and at the car park by Southwold Pier to take residents with not transport available to rest centres.
MORE: Residents and businesses urged to ‘be prepared’ as 1,880 properties at ‘high risk’ of flooding
Superintendent Dave Buckley, who is helping co-ordinate the multi-agency response, said: “This is a significant policing operation underlined by the numbers of properties affected.
“We understand people will be anxious but this action is necessary on the back of the latest information from the Environment Agency, which suggests the threat is significant.
“Military resources, around 200 troops, are on route will start arriving shortly to assist with the evacuation process and we also have additional police resources in place to manage this response.”
Tony Garbutt UK Coastguard Coastal Area Commander for the Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex area added: “We would remind people that in weather like this the seas and tide are unforgiving.
“We cannot stress enough that cliff edges, piers, rocks, harbours and the water’s edge are not safe places to be when the weather is bad. The force of the waves could very easily sweep you to sea or cause serious injury.”
Twelve severe flood warnings - which pose a danger to life - have been made for the following locations in the county:
• Blythburgh and marshes upstream of A12
• East banks of the River Yare and Bure at Great Yarmouth, including North Quay, Newtown and Bure Park.
• East bank of the River Yare at Great Yarmouth from South Denes to South Quay.
• Lowestoft Seafront and Docks.
• North bank of Lake Lothing.
• Oulton Broad near Mutford Lock.
• Southwold and surrounding marshes.
• Riverside Business Park and Kirkley
• Rivers Yare and Bure from Runham Vauxhall to Scare Gap including Vauxhall Holiday Park.
• South Bank of Lake Lothing, Bourne Business Park to Mutford Lock
• West bank of the River Yare at Great Yarmouth from Gorleston to Ferry Hill.
• West Bank of the River Yare at Great Yarmouth including Southtown and Cobholm
Eighteen other flood warnings have been issued by the agency for locations including:
- Area near to the sea defences in Skegness and low lying areas near Gibraltar Point.
- Blythburgh and marshes upstream of A12
- Norfolk Coast from Keswick to Ostend including Walcott
- North Norfolk Coast at Blakeney, Brancaster, Morston, Old Hunstanton, Salthouse and East Cley, Thornham and Wells Quay.
- South Caister from West road to Freemantle Road including North Denes.
- Brancaster Staithe.
- The Seafront at Great Yarmouth from Salisbury Road to the Pleasure Beach.
Firms along Southwold’s popular harbour area have evacuated their premises in preparation for the worst of the floods to hit the area.
The Harbour Inn in Southwold was evacuated early this morning, while nearby Harbour Marine Services has embarked on a two-day operation to protect boats and equipment at its site.
But the company - which refits, repairs and maintains all type of vessels at its base in Southwold Harbour – has had to move heavy equipment such as cranes off site.
Boats inside its workshop have had to be lifted up off the ground after the Environment Agency predicted about a metre of flooding in the area.
He said the worst of the flooding is expected to hit in Southwold around 10.15pm.
The following advice is offered for those preparing for evacuation:
Stay calm and do not panic.
Police officers and / or other officials will visit all properties at risk to advise on the requirement to evacuate.
If road conditions permit, move vehicles to unaffected areas for example higher ground and ask friends / family if you can share their parking facilities.
You will hear about your evacuation point for transport and the location of the reception centre either verbally or by a leaflet.
Try to check that any elderly / vulnerable family members or neighbours know about the evacuation.
Try to inform family members / friends as to where you are evacuating.
Listen to the advice of the authorities and follow any instructions to leave the property.
Take special foods and medicines;
Switch off gas and electricity.
If possible, move electrical equipment and furniture upstairs.
Any furniture that you cannot move upstairs, try to raise well off the floor.
Do not forget to lock all doors and windows.
Block doorways and air bricks – sandbags are available via some local authorities
Avoid walking and driving through floodwater, there could be hidden hazards.
Residents in the areas likely to be affected are advised to review advice from the Environment Agency on preparing your property for flooding:http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/31644.aspxand take all necessary steps.
People can also find out more information by calling the Agency’s Floodline on 0845 988 1188. For anyone who needs specific help with evacuation please call Centre 81 on 01493 332253.