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Floods alert as rainfall records smashed
DORSET is preparing for yet more stormy weather as the county counts the cost of record rainfall.
It has been the wettest January in parts of the county since records began almost 120 years ago and there is no sign of a let up in the miserable conditions.
Wind and rain combined with rough seas and spring tides may cause yet more flooding this weekend.
The Environment Agency issued a flood warning for West Bay this afternoon.
The warning is in place around high tide from 6.50pm tonight and 7am tomorrow morning at and around high tide.
The forecast wind strengths is Force 7 to 8 falling to Force 6 later.
The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for rain, together with strong winds for the county. This coincides with high tides, full rivers and saturated ground.
On the coast, waves are expected to be 5-6 metres high. This means that there is a possibility of waves crashing onto promenades and coastal paths at high tide that could put lives at risk.
The rainfall will add to the already full rivers and flooding is expected in areas that have already been flooded over the last couple of months.
Dorset County Council’s emergency planning and highways teams are working with a number of agencies to keep residents informed, roads open and facilities available if needed.
People are also being advised to take extra care along cliffs and beaches. Landslides often take place after wet weather as there is a delay in the rainwater falling and soaking into the ground. With the continuing wet weather more landslides are expected.
The agencies working together include the Environment Agency, town, parish, district and borough councils, the NHS, Highways Agency, utility companies and the emergency services.
Simon Parker, the county council’s emergency planning officer, said: “We’re gearing up to make sure we are ready for this weekend’s weather.
"It’s also a reminder to residents to prepare, either by protecting their homes or checking travel advice before they start a journey.
“Earlier in the month we had drivers ignoring road closed signs and creating waves that flooded properties. If road users cannot avoid driving through water then take care and drive slowly.”
There are currently 32 flood warnings and 43 flood alerts issued by the Environment Agency for the South West.
There is a flood warning from Dorchester to East Stoke which includes areas in Dorchester, West Stafford, Bockhampton and Wool. An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “River levels in the Lower Frome from Dorchester to East Stoke remain above flood warning thresholds.
“High groundwater levels are adding to river flow and existing high river levels will be raised still further as forecast rainfall of up to 25 millimetres occurs on Friday into Saturday.”
Another monitored area is South Winterbourne Valley, including Winterbourne Abbas, Winterbourne Steepleton, Martinstown or Winterbourne St Martin, Winterbourne Monkton, Winterbourne Herringston and Winterbourne Came.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “Groundwater Levels are continuing to rise following the recent rainfall. “This means that there is a greater risk of groundwater flooding along the South Winterbourne Valley and the A35 at Winterbourne Abbas.”
In addition flood alerts include the West Coast of Dorset including Lyme Regis, Charmouth, Seatown, West Bay, Bothenhampton, Burton Freshwater, Burton Bradstock, Cogdean Beach, Chesil Beach, West Fleet, East Fleet and Chiswell.
A flood alert still remains in place for groundwater flooding in the West Dorset area.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said groundwater levels across the West Dorset area remain high and heavy showers are expected over the next few days.
Met Office weather warnings were issued for the South West this weekend.
A Met Office spokesperson said: “Heavy rain was set affect southwest England on Friday and heavy, squally showers will then follow from the west on Saturday morning.”
A Met Office spokesperson said winds will increase on Saturday, with gusts widely to reach 50 to 60 mph.
Additionally large waves could lead to over-topping along some coastlines. The public are being warned to stay away from the coast.
DORSET has suffered the wettest start to the year since records began.
Dorchester weatherman John Oliver, who has been monitoring the weather for more than 50 years, said: “This has been the wettest January in Dorchester since records began in the county town in 1896.
“Rainfall up to the 29th has amounted to 232 millimetres, or 9.13 inches, compared to the average for the month of 106.3 millimetres, or 4.19 inches.
“The previous record was 213.4millimetres or 8.40 inches set way back in 1906.
“The combined rainfall for December and January so far is 443.7millimetres or 17.47inches, making it the third wettest two-month period on record.
“The total for the current two-month period is made the more remarkable by the fact that the first 11 days of December were dry, with it all falling in a seven week period.”
Weymouth weatherman Bob Poots said that heavy rain forecast for today figures could topple rainfall records.
He added: “The 30 year average for rain in January is 75.9 millimetres, and rain in Weymouth this year so far is 172.1 millimetres, which is more than double the average rainfall.
“The wettest January since our records began in 1880 was 1948, with 185.4 millimetres of rain.”
A spokesman for the Met Office said the UK as a whole had seen a large amount of rain in January.
Wild weather in Dorset throughout the last month has brought down trees, flooded roads and put communities on alert against a risk of river and surface water.
The start to the New Year saw extreme weather conditions forecast for the South West on a daily basis.
Homes have been flooded, businesses ruined and residents evacuated from their homes in the midst of weather misery.
Travel chaos also hit the county as Condor Ferries sailing services, train and bus timetables were disrupted for most of the month.
Flooded roads included the West Stafford bypass, the A354 Causeway in Wyke Regis, the A35 Upton bypass and the A352 Dorchester Road at East Burton.
Rain and wind also decimated the football programme throughout January with Weymouth, Dorchester Town and Bridport falling victim to the weather.
Residents left their homes in Chiswell on Portland amid severe weather warnings on the evening of January 4 and St Mary's church and homes in Charminster became flooded on January 5.
Chiswell residents also told of their ordeal after fleeing their homes as flooding threatened Portland.
Authorities closed the causeway from 10.20pm to 1.30am on January 6 and sirens sounded at Chiswell at 10.25pm, warning of waves coming over the sea wall.
Islanders were asked to evacuate or move upstairs, and Rachel Hodson fled her Chiswell home along with her two children - staying with a friend in Southwell.
After the ordeal on January 8, Environment Minister Dan Rogerson visited Portland to thank workers for their speedy response to flood threats on the island and to discuss 'lessons learned' from the alert.
Roads across the county were damaged and Dorset County Council had 1,800 potholes reported on the roads in just three weeks - along with a further 1,200 other highway-related issues.
Road repair costs could be as much as £135,000; costing £50 to £75 to fix each pothole.
January's weather led to renewed safety warnings after a huge rockfall onto the beach at Burton Bradstock.
Massive boulders crashed down to the Hive beach on January 16 in one of the largest falls this winter along the stretch of coastline.
The fall happened only a few hundred yards from where a landslip killed Charlotte Blackman in 2012.
Fears grew for the future of Chesil Beach as pebbles and shingle vanished because of harsh winds, but local historian Stuart Morris reassured residents that the pebbles from Chesil Beach would return in time.
After the storms, hundreds of people united to clear more than two tonnes of rubbish washed up on Chesil Beach.
Portland resident Storm Wallace started up the idea of the beach clean covering as far as Castletown and Church Ope Cove on Facebook.
West Dorset MP says action needed to clear rivers
A Dorset MP has spoken out in favour of action to help flood-stricken areas of the county.
Oliver Letwin, MP for West Dorset, said 'common sense measures' need to be taken to tackle streams and rivers which are prone to flooding.
Mr Letwin said it is a question of finding a balance between clearing rivers to keep water flowing and protecting natural habitats.
He said: “The measures will vary from location to location, but essentially, they are about clearing obstacles that have accumulated in streams and rivers.”
Mr Letwin has been holding meetings with Dorset farmers, Natural England and the Environment Agency to discuss the issue.
Fields and roads across the county were struck by flooding in the recent bout of bad weather.
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