FLOODING: Clean up under way in Sidmouth and Ottery

THE damage caused to Devon’s roads by torrential rain and flooding will take months to repair and will cost millions of pounds, according to Devon County Council.

More than 270 weather related incidents were reported on the county’s highways over the weekend, and it is expected that the full extent of the devastation caused by the severe flooding will take days to determine.

East Devon and the South Hams were hardest hit over the weekend. Among the major incidents early on Saturday were in Yealmpton where a number of properties were evacuated, and Axminster, where residents from Willhayes Park were evacuated from their homes.

Other areas significantly affected were Mill Street in Sidmouth, where water from the River Sid topped the flood gates, the B3261 Trafalgar Way in Axminster was closed due to structural damage, and there was flooding in Lyndburst Road in Exmouth and Mill Street in Ottery St Mary.

The volume of rain which fell in just a few hours also caused flooding in Modbury, Kingsbridge and Ivybridge. Topsham Bridge in Loddiswell was closed after part of the road was washed away, Parsonage Bridge in Ugborough was closed due to structural damage, and Puslinch Bridge and Loverton Bridge in Yealmpton remain closed after being damaged. One lane of the A381 (Totnes to Kingsbridge road) was severely damaged at The Mounts, and there were also landslips in Diptford, Avonwick and on Newton Road, Totnes.

Yealmpton put its community emergency plan into action on Saturday morning to open rest centres in the Methodist Hall and the Parish Rooms as well as providing volunteers. Devon County Council and South Hams District Council were then able to support the centres with staff.

Devon County Council established Axe Valley Sports Centre as a rest centre for around 40 residents in the town on Saturday morning. The centre was operated by staff from Devon County Council, East Devon District Council as well as the British Red Cross, St John Ambulance, Salvation Army and Faith Response Group.

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The county’s bridge inspectors were out on Sunday checking bridges and structures affected. All A and B roads in the county were checked for damage throughout yesterday and all are open. Repairs are already underway on A-roads in Devon.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said: “The weather conditions were atrocious over the weekend and the flooding was the worst we’ve seen for some time. I have to express my gratitude to our control centre and highways teams, South West Highways, and the emergency services, who all worked well together. We are ensuring that repair work is carried out as a priority on A-roads to keep the public safe and to keep Devon moving in order to support our local economy.

“There are a number of issues already identified on unclassified roads in East Devon and the South Ham areas, and problems are still being reported which illustrates the size of the task at hand. The repair bill will undoubtedly run into millions of pounds – probably on a similar scale to what we have seen during some of the recent harsh winters.”

As well as remedial work, the general clear up is also still on-going across the county.

River levels have dropped and there are currently no flood warnings in force across Devon. However, further heavy outbreaks of rain and possible thunder storms are forecast again for Thursday.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman met flood victims in Ottery St Mary yesterday.

Ms Spelman spoke of the importance of flood prevention schemes during her visit.

One of the culverts she was taken to protected 60 nearby properties in Thorne Farm Way from water entering their homes last Friday.

Ms Spelman also spoke about how important social media had become as a way of warning residents as she thanked staff at the Met Office in Exeter for the work they have been doing to warn people about the bad weather.

East Devon District Council’s StreetScene staff were out in force all over the District from the start, tackling the problems as they arose. Leader of the Council, Paul Diviani, said: “I am very proud of their dedication and community spirit and the resilience of our communities who were also fully involved in the clear up.

“And a special thanks must go to John Golding and the Housing Team for ensuring that those who had to evacuate their homes were found shelter in the emergency centres and with family and friends.

“Whilst emergencies are not a pleasant experience, it is reassuring to know help is at hand. We shall be having a wash up meeting today to review the operation and learn from the experience to ensure our response in the future is the best.”

The Environment Agency has encouraged people to check its website, Twitter feed and Facebook pages. Its flood line service on 0845 9881188 can also provide advice.