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EMERGENCY PLANNING TEAMS ON FULL ALERT FOR HIGHEST TIDES IN 20 YEARS

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Council emergency planning teams will be on full alert this weekend as the highest tides in 20 years are predicted ...
Council emergency planning teams will be on full alert this weekend as the highest tides in 20 years are predicted to hit England's coast.

Local authorities have identified rest centres where residents can seek shelter if their homes are hit by floods. People will be given refreshments, advice and support by trained staff. Councils have also issued advice plans listing simple but effective measures people can take to protect their homes.

The highest tides of the year are due from 7-10 October and could cause flooding if they coincide with severe weather like strong winds, storms and wave surges.

Met Office AUTUMN GALES BRING RISK OF COASTAL FLOODING

If flooding looms the Environment Agency will issue one of four warning codes, ranging in severity from Flood Watch to Severe Flood Warning. This should give council emergency planning teams, working with the emergency services and Environment Agency, 12 hours to put their flood plans into action.

Environment Agency FLOODPLAIN PLANNING POWERS OVER LOCAL AUTHORITIES

Council emergency planning chiefs have set out a six point plan that people can take to protect their home from flooding (1):

-- Turn off gas, electricity and water supplies at the mains

-- Unplug all electrical items and store upstairs or as high up as possible

-- Open doors and windows, smear a layer of silicone sealant around the frame, then shut and lock the door or window.

-- Ideally, cover doors, windows and airbricks with plywood, sandbags or metal sheeting.

-- Move as much furniture and electrical blankets as you can upstairs. Alternatively, raise them up on bricks or blocks - this may be very helpful for large appliances such as fridges/ freezers.

-- Keep important personal documents in a sealed bag, and in a location safe from flood water.

Chairman of the Local Government Association Environment Board, Paul Bettison, said:

'Emergency planning teams are on full alert and ready to deal with any flooding that the high tides could cause this weekend. It is important that everyone living on the coast or in a flood risk area is prepared. People should not wait until water is running down their streets to do something.

'There are lots of precautions you can take. People should sign up to the Environment Agency's automated warning system, so they get a call the moment there is a risk their home could flood.

'People should also move all their valuables and irreplaceable items such as passports, certificates and wedding photos upstairs and out of the way.

'Local authorities are on the frontline in the fight against climate change. The high tides are a natural event that happen twice a year and they usually pass with the majority of people being unaware. If our towns and villages are affected by flooding this weekend people can rest assured their local council, along with the emergency services and Environment Agency, is fully prepared to respondto the emergency.'

Preparations being made by councils in areas that could be affected by flooding this weekend:

Norfolk CC: Groups of flood wardens, who are local volunteers, go out along the coast to assess what's happening. The councils store sandbags at key locations along the coastline where residents know they can go a collect them if there is a threat of flooding. If a 'flood warning' comes in then coastal flood defences are activated and gaps along the sea wall have defences slotted into place. Should it become necessary rest centres will be open to shelter people whose homes are threatened with flooding.

Suffolk CC: A meeting of the multi-agency 'Suffolk Resilience Forum' was held last month to review and update the area's emergency flood plans.

Bristol City Council: Led a multi-agency exercise to test its readiness to respond to floods at the same time as Bristol experienced unusually high Spring Tides in March. Part of the exercise looked at how agencies would cope if the Bristol Stop Gates failed to work and how agencies would activate their contingency plans to stem potential floods in this eventuality.

South Gloucestershire Council: If the Environment Agency issue a 'flood warning' highway teams will be sent out to monitor conditions, looking specifically for over-topping of flood defences. The council has a limited supply of sandbags which can be issued.

North Somerset Council: Has a procedure which it deploys for higher tides on Weston seafront including closing entrances to the beach with flood boards and closing roads if necessary.

Gloucestershire CC: If tidal levels are above danger point they begin emergency action. At first this is sandbagging but in extreme cases would be evacuation of homes. They work with the district councils to achieve this.

Somerset CC: Has a multi-agency plan in case of coastal or inland flooding which would be launched in response to any warning from the Environment Agency ahead of potential flooding. The council would look at moving people from houses in flood threatened areas and offer them support in rest centres.

Devon CC: Additional highway crews have been inspecting gullies and drains to make sure there are no blockages so that any flood water would disperse as quickly as possible. Officers will be on alert all weekend ready to implement the Devon Flood Warning and Response Plan if needed.

Cornwall CC: Provides engineering advice on ways residents can alleviate the risk of flooding to their properties. Very serious flooding resulting in the need for evacuation of houses and provision of temporary accommodation is covered by the council's Emergency Plan.

Additional Info

1) The simple steps that people can take to protect their homes were first issued by the Environment Agency.

2) People can find out if they are in a flood risk area by calling the Floodline 0845 988 11 88 or checking the Environment Agency's website: www.environment-agency.gov.uk. Homeowners at risk can receive warnings by signing up to the free Floodline Warnings Direct service.

3) Environment Agency flood warning codes:

Flood Watch: Flooding of low lying land and roads is expected. Be aware, be prepared, watch out!

Flood Warning: Flooding of homes and businesses is expected. Act now!

Severe Flood Warning: Severe flooding is expected. There is extreme danger to life and property. Act now!

All Clear: Flood Watches or Warnings are no longer in force for this area.

4) In two-tier areas the county council takes the local authority emergency planning lead and supports the district and borough councils in the multi-agency response plan. In all other areas the unitary council is a key partner in the multi-agency response.

5) Councils have no statutory obligation to provide local residents with sandbags although some do have limited supplies which they hand out for free. Those people living in a known area or property which is liable to flood should take their own permanent precautions to protect their home from flooding.

ENVIRONMENT AGENCY ISSUES FLOOD WATCHES

The Environment Agency has issued flood watches for the Hampshire, Kent and Sussex coastline.

High tides this weekend could again raise the threat of coastal flooding if they coincide with bad weather.

The weekend of September 9 and 11 saw equinoctial tides along the shores of Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

The Environment Agency had cautioned if the tides coincided with bad weather there would have been flooding. Fortunately conditions stayed calm and the risk was avoided. With high pressure dominating the weather, the actual measured tides were very close to the astronomic predictions although some flood watches and warnings were issued.

An easterly wind of around Force 4 coincided with the high tide on Saturday September 9. Although no properties were flooded, there was some localised coastal flooding at locations exposed to the east such as Mevagissey and Looe in Cornwall.

In Somerset, the tide reached a height of 7.3 metres in Bridgwater and 8.12 metres in Avonmouth. Flood watches were issued for the Somerset coast from Porlock to Avonmouth and Pill with flood warnings issued at Porlock and Uphill.

Some flooding was experienced at Muddlebridge in North Devon closing the B3233, but no property flooding. Strong easterly winds caused spray overtopping at Dawlish, Teignmouth and Torbay and there was also minor overtopping along the seafront at Preston Sands, and the southern part of Paignton Beach.

In Dorset, there was a tide watch at Christchurch, and a large crowd converged on West Bay to watch the high tides, and water came onto the highway at Weymouth.

On September 21 the warning systems were tested again when a deep low pressure weather system caused by Hurricane Gordon generated severe gales and a strong tidal surge along the Devon and Cornwall coastline. Flood watches were put out for the whole of the South Coast but it passed without any major flooding.

The Environment Agency is not expecting the situation to escalate but high tides are expected for this weekend so anyone out near the coast should be aware in case the weather deteriorates.

High water levels could lead to some minor overtopping of flood defences so anyone out near the coast should take extra care. The Environment Agency will continue to monitor the situation throughout the weekend.

Tide heights are governed by the gravitational pull of the sun and moon and vary throughout the year, and between years. Spring tides are higher than normal and occur twice a month. Higher than normal 'spring' tides were predicted for the 7, 8, 9 and 10 October along the coast this year because they are so near to the September equinox, when the sun crosses the equator and its gravitational pull is at its greatest. Flood defences are designed to take account of high tides.

The Environment Agency provides the 24 hour Floodline 0845 988 1188 service. Flood warning information can be obtained for your area, or an operator can give advice over the phone 24 hours a day. Flood Warnings in force can also be viewed on the Environment Agency's website at http:www.environment-agency.gov.uk.

The Environment Agency is urging people in at-risk areas to remind themselves of the Flood Warning codes.

Flood Watch - Flooding of low-lying land and roads is expected. Be aware! Be prepared and watch out.

Flood Warning - Flooding of homes and businesses is expected. Act now!

Severe Flood Warning - Severe flooding is expected. There is extreme danger to life and property. Act now!

All Clear - Flood Warnings or Flood Watches are no longer in force in this area.

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