Saturday, July 21, 2007

Waterworld




If you are in the UK, you have probably noticed on the news, the atrocious weather we've been having recently.

Yesterday started off quite nicely as we abandoned the office at noon in order to avoid being stranded in Stratford-upon-Avon. Not bad going eh? Although for once I could do without the break because I want to get a few things sorted before going off on annual leave next week.

After an hour of journeying I was dropped off home and pretty much chilled out for the afternoon...although I did stock upon a few things just in case the worst happened.

At about 8pm I ventured into town to see how things were going, as I received a message from my mum to say that the main bridge in town was rumoured to be in danger of breaking. Mum was holed up at an aunts house and was unimpressed that I was intent on going up as far as the bridge, especially as the police had not yet received the authority to close it. On a side note, I thought that was crazy... why should police on the scene have to wait for an inspector behind a desk to make a judgement call?

By the time I arrived, the arches on the bridge were completely submerged and water was beginning to trickle up through drains onto the road surface. The police were struggling to keep pedestrians at bay.

The rain drove down on us relentlessly and eventually, several key roads were shut. Periodically the police would let people skip across to the other side. It is kind of hard to stop people returning to their homes on a Friday night after all.

As the bridge was now inaccessible to traffic, I advised a few people how they could get to the other end of the town by looping back and heading up the industrial estate (which apparently also was flooding). I also offered to help a lady move her bookshelves and stuff upstairs... just in case the waters headed her way, but she said she'd get family to do it.

I spoke to an officer about my concern regarding drinkers coming out of the pub at late hours...as there were only a few coppers about and there had already been one smart alec trying to force his way onto the bridge. This resulted in me nearly getting deputised, to the point of getting one of those seriously un-trendy yellow high visibility jackets...but under health and safety conditions the control centre declined the officers request.

Eventually as darkness fell, it became very clear that this was going to be a very bad flood. Elderly people had been evacuated to the town hall, and water was now was escaping the river banks directly and pouring liberally onto the road surface.

My mum and dad who had been busy attending to the elderly refugees in the town hall,now came and insisted I come back home. Despite wearing waterproof clothing, I had been out so long that the shielding they offered had been overcome and I was now soaked through.

I headed off and showered and got changed. Then made my way out with dad to help shore up my cousin's house which by now was firmly in the front line, as the water advanced. We took bags of compost and threw them over the fence. In the end it did little good, the water did not come from the front, the back,or even the sides... it seeped up from beneath... straight through the floorboards.

Having finished that, we took an old lady back to a residential care home, from the town hall via an extremely scenic journey.

I noted with concern how the water had reached as far as the corner of School Road and was now visible from the Birmingham Road... which I don't think happened even in the great flood of 1998... and as the car headed home, we were troubled to see how quickly the water had sprung up around the Globe Island... in the space of a mere half an hour.

I clambered into bed slightly paranoid that the water would advance even as far as where I live... but it was not to be. By 10:30, I set off for the town centre to examine the devastation first hand... it was still inaccessible from most directions and I had to walk across to the far side of town to take a proper look.

Gunnings Bridge still stood, but felt much more wobbly as you stood on it. On two occasions, I heard an explosion... I have no idea what that was. Further into the heart of the town, I waded across to the local supermarket and saw half the stock floating by the front door... some of which had clearly come from the far side of the shop.
Kids were cycling through the deluge and at one point I even saw a canoeist! Some joker had put down a "CAUTION: Wet Surface!" yellow bollard by the water's edge. It was soon swept away as two fire engines hurtled into High Street sending a surge of water in all directions, to the sound of a hearty cheer from onlookers.



I wandered about the town taking photographs with my mobile phone. You can see them here.

We are in for more bad weather over the next few days... and what is more I have to walk over 2 miles to church via roads that have been closed in the current floods. Maybe I should take the "Moses stick" my sister brought back from Mount Sinai for me. The buses are still running, so work shouldn't be a problem on Monday.

Its at times like these that we should appreciate the fact we live in a country that has the finance and infrastructure to deal with this kind of flooding... and when counting the cost,we should be mindful that we get off incredibly lightly in comparison to say... Bangladesh.

I should like to add that Evesham had it much worse than us... and from what I can tell, Stratford-upon-Avon has not been hit as badly as either Alcester or Evesham... and yet media coverage has largely centred on Stratford, although this is changing as the day goes on. Typical of the Stratfordians to hog the attention... it's what they do best.

So I speak for Alcester, lest no one else does.

Note for Benny, you might want to know that Leamington has ben clobbered as the river Leam burst it's banks at the centre of town.

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