Storms bring misery to southern England

December 26, 2013 - 3:58:02 am

Waves hit the jetty in the port of A Guarda in northwestern Spain yesterday. High winds and heavy rain battered parts of Europe, with some areas still reeling from the aftermath.


London: Tens of thousands of people were left without power on Christmas Day and dozens were evacuated from their homes as the stormy weather continued to bring misery and serious disruption to southern and central parts of the UK.

Some householders who were still without power in Kent, Surrey and Sussex were warned they may have to wait until the end of the week to get supplies restored.

The Energy Networks Association said 50,000 homes were without power, adding that it was likely some would still be suffering a power blackout today.

UK Power Networks, which delivers power to about 8 million customers in the south-east, the east of England and London, said the storm had deprived about 300,000 properties of power — although for most it was restored by engineers within minutes. It said its staff were working to reconnect everyone else, with supplies restored to the vast majority by Tuesday night and repair work continuing throughout yesterday and today.

By the afternoon, UK Power Networks said there were 23,379 households in the south-east without power, but added: “Due to the severity of the storm damage in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, it may take until the end of the week to restore power supplies to the final pockets of customers in these areas, though work is continuing to reconnect supplies as quickly as possible.”

The company also said it had made arrangements for hundreds of people without power to enjoy a Christmas dinner. 

“We’re conscious that a few people’s Christmas dinners are going to be ruined so we’re trying to find ways we can help,” said a spokesman. He said the company would “foot the bill” to the tune of £40 per customer.

The Environment Agency (EA) said two severe weather warnings — the highest level of alert, meaning there is a danger to life — remained in place in the south-west. The EA issued 104 flood warnings across England and Wales on Christmas Day, mainly in the south-east, south-west and Midlands. A further 193 flood alerts were also in place, with 90 in the south-east alone.

The agency said 150 properties, mainly in the south and focused in Surrey and Kent, had been flooded on Tuesday night.

The storms and subsequent flooding also saw striking firefighters suspend their industrial action in parts of England.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union in Surrey and Kent were recalled to duty under the terms of an agreement between the union, the employers and the government.

Around 90 people were evacuated from their homes on the river Stour near Bournemouth in the early hours of Christmas Day. Police began to evacuate residents of the Ilford Bridge Home Park shortly after 3am following a severe flood warning from the Environment Agency. Fifteen people were also evacuated from the Beaulieu Garden Park Home in Christchurch, Dorset.

The coastguard joined Kent fire and rescue service to rescue people from the Little Venice Caravan and Marina Park in Yalding after rising waters from the River Medway cut them off.

In Surrey, residents were evacuated from their homes in Dorking, Leatherhead, Godalming and Guildford, while more evacuations occurred in Tonbridge, Kent.

Travellers trying to get home on Christmas Eve had fought treacherous conditions on the roads and suffered major delays as the rail network was brought to its knees.

Flights at Gatwick began to return to normal yesterday after the chaotic scenes on Christmas Eve when a power cut at the North Terminal led to cancellations and delays, leaving thousands of passengers stranded. 

EasyJet said it would be operating a limited number of flights from Gatwick to replace ones that should have operated on Tuesday, but added it would be unable to schedule any further flights on Christmas Day because of limited capacity at airports and crew availability.

Network Rail said more than 200 trees had come down on lines in 24 hours, adding that it had to deal with a further 100 major incidents. Many major roads were flooded or blocked on Christmas Eve, with Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Cornwall among affected counties.

In Dorset, fire crews had to rescue 25 people trapped in their cars by flood water. After days of heavy rain and high winds, weather forecasters were predicting a “much quieter” spell of weather.

“We do have a few showers around and they could be heavy at times, and some of them might bring more hail, which will give a whiteness to things,” said Kirk Waite, a forecaster at the Met Office.

Waite said that although a storm coming on Friday was not expected to be as severe as those of recent days, there would still be heavy rain, which would bring “additional problems” to those places already struggling with floods. The Guardian

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