6:00am Thursday 9th January 2014
By Joanna Davis
ENVIRONMENT minister Dan Rogerson visited Portland to thank workers for their speedy response to flood threats on the island.
Mr Rogerson spoke to affected residents in Chiswell, who were advised to stay upstairs or evacuate as emergency sirens were sounded and the Weymouth to Portland causeway was closed.
He also discussed ‘lessons learned’ from the alert with Environment Agency workers and local authority staff.
Residents’ storm ordeal made national headlines after flood sirens sounded on Portland on Monday night and the high tide posed a danger to residents.
The extreme stormy conditions caused thousands of pebbles to fly off the beach and giant waves to lash the windows of properties close to the sea.
Mr Rogerson, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall, said: “I want to say thank you to the Environment Agency and the local authority for their support.
“I’m here today to look at what happened so we can be prepared for the future.
“I’m also here to listen to what people have to say and pass that information on to other organisations.”
Brandy Row resident Christina Moody told Mr Rogerson she was pleased with the amount of support islanders received.
She said: “It was pretty scary seeing the storm but the amount of community support we had was great. On Facebook all my friends on the island were asking if I was okay.”
Mr Rogerson also visited Chesil Cove and Weymouth Harbour to view flooding measures and discussed flooding plans with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council leader Mike Goodman and other staff at the authority’s Westwey Road office.
Also on the agenda was a visit to Preston Beach in Weymouth to see anti-flooding measures.
The recent stormy weather also saw Preston Beach Road closed on several occasions. Critics have argued that a different approach needs to be taken to the beach to stop flooding threats.
Weymouth resident Geoffrey Poole describes the current measues as ‘a disaster’.
He said: “The Environment Agency is there for three months every year maintaining the beach. More shingle needs to be put on the beach and it needs to be the right type of shingle.
“This was meant to be a maintenance free beach but how can they say that?”
Grant Armfield, head of emergency planning for West Dorset District Council and the borough council, who met with Mr Rogerson, said the sea defence system is working at Preston Beach. He said: “We’ve had force 10 southerly winds taking away a lot of material at that beach.
“We have to accept that we only have a limited amount of resources at one time.”
Meanwhile, local historian Stuart Morris said the pebbles which have vanished from Chesil Beach will return in time.
He said: “There is no need to worry about the loss of pebbles in Chesil Cove. They’ll be back.
“It’s happened many times before and I have a picture from 1962 showing the same occurrence before the curved section of the sea wall was built.
MR ARMFIELD praised the heightened level of ‘public engagement’ during the severe flood warnings.
He said: “It’s the first time with the severe flood warnings we’ve done the door knocking with all the residents.
“Dorset Police have done a lot of public engagement.
“The most important message to get out was that people had choices and were aware before the sirens sounded.
“We needed to give people the choice of going to an upper floor and an offer of accommodation elsewhere.”
More storms on the way
More heavy rain and wind is on the way as the fallout from the blast of the freezing ‘polar vortex’ battering the US hits the UK.
A weather system forming part of the record-breaking polar vortex that has affected half of America is heading across the Atlantic, warming as it comes.
The Met Office had already extended its severe weather alert until Thursday morning, warning of more floods as saturated ground and swollen rivers in the south of England and Wales may not cope with more rain.
But further heavy falls will be swept in when the US weather system reaches the UK on Friday.
Communities have been warned to brace themselves for further flooding this week.
River levels were continuing to rise in counties including Dorset, the Environment Agency (EA) said.
There were 102 flood warnings and 181 flood alerts in place across the country, including the Stour in Dorset, although none of them were deemed severe, which would carry a danger to life.
There remained a risk of flooding from groundwater across the county the EA said.
Teams were said to be checking and maintaining flood defences, clearing blockages in watercourses and monitoring water levels to help communities.
Paul Mustow, flood risk manager at the EA, said: “The risk of flooding continues this week, with communities in the south west and south east urged to stay safe and sign up to free flood warnings. When flood warnings are issued it means that flooding is expected and we urge people to take immediate action to prepare.”
The latest warnings came as David Cameron said during Prime Minister’s Questions that lessons would be learned from the recent devastating weather events.
He said some energy companies did not have enough staff working over Christmas period to deal effectively with power failures.
And he said Energy Secretary Ed Davey was looking at the response of the energy companies and the compensation on offer amid criticism that they were too slow to reconnect cut-off families.
The government would update MPs within weeks, Mr Cameron added, as he confirmed that more was being spent on flood defences in this four-year period than in the previous period.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson this week said the government was working closely with local councils, the insurance industry and others to ensure that people could quickly get the help they need.
Some areas of the country were focused on recovery after storms and flooding over the Christmas and new year period, while others remained at significant risk of floods, he told the Commons.
Mr Paterson said that a few energy network companies could have been quicker at restoring power to thousands of homes affected by the Christmas storms and floods.
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