We are now emerging from a prolonged spell of wet weather but the risk of flooding in Somerset hasn’t receded yet including on the Levels and Moors. Flood warnings remain in place.
To compound the situation, we are heading into a cold snap with several days of below-zero temperatures forecast which throws up a new set of challenges both in terms of Highways winter service and public health/health and safety.
Somerset County Council is working with partners including Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council, South Somerset District Council, Public Health, the Environment Agency, Somerset Rivers Authority and others to monitor the situation and take any action that might be required.
At this point a major incident has not been declared, although agencies are working together.
We hope this brief can assist you when you are dealing with people’s concerns and queries. Please feel free to share the information widely and reinforce the key messages
Council teams worked over the weekend to monitor and respond as appropriate.
Latest updates from the Environment Agency
The Environment Agency has been busy both responding to the weather as well as planning ahead. They have been issuing regular briefings and these can be found on https://www.somersetriversauthority.org.uk/news/
During this time, the Agency urges residents not to risk driving through floodwater. Just 30cm of water can move a vehicle. People should check their flood risk, sign up for free flood warnings and keep up to date with the latest situation at https://www.gov.uk/check-flooding, call Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or follow @EnvAgencySW on Twitter for the latest flood updates.
Heavy rain and flooding present a clear and present danger to drivers and there are a number of roads still affected in the county. Road users are urged NOT to attempt to drive across flooded roads as it is not possible to estimate the depth of the water reliably. Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service were called to rescue a number of people trapped in vehicles over the weekend.
A number of Somerset roads have been impacted by flooding in the past 48 hours. Due to the nature of flooding, water levels rise and fall quickly so the situation can change rapidly.
Highways teams dealt with 225 enquires over the weekend 14/15 January including a number of additional flooded roads and other weather-related issues over Saturday and Sunday following high winds and rain.
Some of the key incidents:
- A358 Donyatt – closed due to flooding throughout Saturday – reopened Sunday
- A38 Wellington to Taunton – passable but monitored by teams
- A39 Williton to Tropiquaria closed due to flooding and collision
- Staplehill, Staple Fitzpaine – tree down, gang moblised
- B3227 Norton Fitzwarren- closed Saturday due to flooding – reopened Sunday
- Willow Grove, Washford – closed due to landslip/remains closed
- A371 Woodborough Rd, Winscombe – just passable due to flooding
- B3222 Jury Hill, Dulverton – closed due to flooding – reopened Monday
- Lipe Lane, Creech St Michael – closed due to flooding
On the Levels we have flood gates in place to prevent access in the event of flooding – information can be found here – Emergency road closure gates – Travel Somerset. All flood gates are currently closed.
The A361 between East Lyng and Burrowbridge remains closed following further wet weather and rising water levels over Friday and Saturday. We will be monitoring this and will reopen the road as soon as it is safe to do so, although we do not anticipate this happening for several days. Keep an eye on Travel Somerset on Twitter and Facebook for any updates.
In addition Cutts Road (East Lyng to Athelney), New Road (West Lyng to North Curry) and Langport Road (Muchelney to Langport) all remain closed and are also not expected to open for several days.
A reminder that the B3191 Cleeve Hill, near Watchet, has been closed to all road users for safety due to monitoring indicating there may be significant movement within the coastal slopes. It will remain closed until further detailed inspections can take place.
It’s vital to prepare for wet conditions if you have to travel and to proceed with extreme caution if you get caught in flood conditions – you can find information and advice here:Adverse weather conditions (somersetroadsafety.org)
If you spot a problem with a drain or gully, or any issue on the highway you can report it easily and quickly here – Report a problem on the road (somerset.gov.uk).
On top of this situation we are now expecting freezing conditions over the next few days with Highways winter service teams being deployed to ensure key routes are gritted. Please remember that the majority of roads are not gritted, and ice can still form on gritted roads, particularly where there is significant water run-off. You can read more about the service and find out about gritting routes here – Gritting – Travel Somerset
Looking after yourself and mental health
Floodwater can contain hidden dangers such as uncovered manholes, obstacles or sewage – so never enter floodwater. Please also be careful if walking near riverbanks and flooded areas, and never walk on spillways.
During this cold snap there is also the risk that floodwater could freeze, so we also remind people to never walk or play on ice or frozen ponds.
We know that heavy rainfall may trigger feelings of anxiety, fear or worry, particularly for those who have been previously affected by flooding.
Here are some things you can do to help reduce any feelings of anxiety caused by heavy rainfall and the activation of local flood defences:
- Talk to somebody about how you are feeling, if you don’t feel able to talk to friends or family you can call Mindline – Somerset’s emotional support and mental health helpline which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 01823 276 892 (local) 0800 138 1692 (freephone)
- Try and do activities that help you to feel less stressed like exercising, reading, listening to music or meditating
- Follow your normal routine as much as possible
- Visit the Every Mind Matters website where you can find lots of tips and exercises to help manage anxiety
- Stay up-to-date on weather information and warnings. If you’re aware of the latest information, you may gain a sense of control over the situation. Check for flooding – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
We also encourage residents to help their neighbours and look out for others in your community. This is particularly important during the cold snap when vulnerable people are at more risk. Cold weather can have serious consequences for the health of older people and those with heart and lung conditions.
Collections of recycling and refuse
Somerset Waste Partnership and its contractor SUEZ are closely monitoring the situation and assessing any potential impact on kerbside collections, especially as temperatures drop in the coming days. We do not anticipate any impact today (Monday 16 Jan). There is a risk of some disruption to tomorrow’s collections in the West Somerset and Exmoor area, but this will not be clear until crews are out.
We will endeavour to return on the next possible collection day for any missed collections and will share information about any disruption through social media, traditional media and the SWP website.
Disposing of Sand/Gel Flood Bags
Where possible, sandbags and gel bags should be dried out for reuse. The best way to do this is to raise them off the ground whilst drying to help prevent mould forming.
If this is not possible, the contents can be removed by splitting the bag and distributed/buried in your garden, the sacks can then be deposited in your refuse for onward incineration, the gel used in the bags is harmless and fully biodegradable.
- Recycling sites
Bags, of sand or gel, can be taken to any of the county’s 16 recycling sites and should be deposited in the ‘landfill/non-recyclable’ skip.
Any sacks contaminated with raw sewage should be handled with care wearing gloves and washing your hands thoroughly afterward. The sacks should be double-bagged and taken to your local recycling site for the ‘landfill/non-recyclable’ skip
What can I do to prepare for flooding?
Thinking ahead and preparing for what the weather may bring can make a real difference in your home, business and community.
One of the first things is to check is whether your property is at risk of flooding.
We also recommend taking precautionary measures and purchasing your own sandbags in case of flooding emergencies. If sandbags are not available, you can use:
- rolled-up mats or carpets
- bags of garden compost
- pillow cases filled with soil (don’t overfill them)
- timber boards (possibly screwed to door frames and sealed with mastic)
What to do during a flood
There is information to help you on what to do during a flood on the Somerset Prepared website. The key point is to always stay safe, in an immediate flood emergency or where there is a risk to life, follow the advice of the emergency services.
Protect yourself from future flooding
It is advisable to plan how you’ll respond to a flood. Information and plans are available to help you plan ahead.
We also encourage you to download the ‘Prepare. Act. Survive.’ flood plan to help reduce the impact of flooding.
You can find up to date information on flood warnings by visiting the flood warnings page on the Government’s website.