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Early warnings of rising water will help protect homes and businesses
Another spell of heavy rain has once again wreaked havoc upon communities across the country.
Televised images of people paddling through knee-deep water in their living rooms, or others being evacuated by boat, causes us to think we got off lightly.
Parts of Yorkshire and the North-East experienced more than a month’s rain in 24 hours, leading to rising river levels and surface-water flooding.
Here in Bradford, more and more people are turning to a free warning service which lets those in areas at risk of flooding know how serious the threat is, enabling them to take evasive action.
This year, dozens more homes and businesses in the district have been targeted by the Environment Agency’s flood warning service which sends a message to householders if flooding from rivers or – in other parts of Yorkshire, the sea – is expected to affect their property. Those signing up to the service, Floodline Warnings Direct, can receive warnings direct to their landline or mobile, via text message, e-mail or fax.
A second nominated person, such as a carer, friend or relative, can also receive the warning.
Across the country, the number of properties receiving the warnings rose to an all-time high earlier this year after six weeks of exceptionally high rainfall and summer flooding. A record 1.1 million homes can now receive direct automated warnings, with 4,000 extra households signing up in June and July.
Many properties, including homes and businesses along the Aire Valley, have been registered with the service for a number of years, and choose whether to sign up. The latest batch of 1,400 properties across Yorkshire, including many in Keighley and Haworth , will automatically receive the warnings, and have to opt out if they do not want them.
“We have identified addresses at risk and will contact them. We send out different levels of warning depending on the severity,” says an Environment Agency spokesman. “This allows people time to take action, to move valuables upstairs or to check on neighbours who may need help.”
The extension of the EA’s flood warning service was a key recommendation from the independent Pitt Review into the summer floods in 2007. The expansion programme includes a pledge by the EA to increase the number of homes receiving free flood warnings by 180,000 by the end of 2015.
“The new extended service will benefit many people across Yorkshire,” says the EA’s flood resilience officer, Danielle Wheatley. “We would urge anyone whose property is at risk to sign up. The threat of flooding can never be completely eliminated, and receiving early warnings is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your belongings.”
The EA is also continuing to expand the number of areas in the country eligible for its free flood warning service. Danielle adds: “One-in-six homes in England and Wales is at risk of flooding. We urge everyone to check whether their property is at risk by visiting our website.”
Warnings are not issued to predict possible surface water problems, but this may be added at a future date.
Real-time river levels can also be checked on the EA’s website. A number of volunteer flood wardens also operate across the Bradford district, and the EA would like to encourage more. There are currently 30 groups across Yorkshire who act as the EA’s eyes and ears in the event of flooding.
This week’s heavy rain is due to an area of low pressure which had moved north across the country from the Bay of Biscay.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Yorkshire Water added: “We’ve mounted a massive operation, working alongside the local authorities and the Environment Agency, to do what we can to help reduce the risk of flooding from the heavy rainfall we’re currently seeing across the region.
“Our key pumping stations are being closely monitored, and additional pumping capacity is in place at areas that we know are at a particularly high risk of flooding.
“As ever, teams are out checking sewers are flowing freely and removing any blockages where necessary. We are also contacting vulnerable customers and arranging for sandbags to be made available to them where appropriate.
“In addition to the extra resources we have deployed on the ground, we have also increased the number of call handlers at our Loop customer contact centre.
“To help any concerned customers, we’ve created a flood prevention and advice page which can be found at yorkshirewater.com.”
Visit environment-agency.gov.uk. EA Floodline provides flood warning information and advice on 0845 9881188.