The Environment Agency and the local authorities in Somerset have declared a major incident because of flood risk in the county.
Enhanced pumping began on Tuesday evening (17 January) at Northmoor to reduce the amount of water being stored until river levels allow pumping to resume at Currymoor, which remains full. But the decision to declare a major incident at this time is a precautionary move and will mean partners become more coordinated and ready to support and take action should the situation worsen.
The agency is currently responding to flooding incidents in Somerset, flood risk in the Bristol Avon area and monitoring rising groundwater levels in Dorset.
Ian Withers of the Environment Agency said: “The sight of water on the Somerset Levels and Moors is obviously a concern to those who have suffered from flooding before. Our staff continue to work to the best of their abilities to protect people and properties, install pumps and engage with communities.
“The situation is expected to improve when enhanced pumping begins and we continue to run the Sowy flood relief channel, it is prudent to plan for the worst and going into major incident mode is appropriate, so we coordinate with partners and everyone is ready to respond if needed.”
Cllr Bill Revans, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “The decision to declare a major incident at this stage means we are well placed to respond. We will be supporting Environment Agency colleagues on the ground and taking every step to ensure our communities receive the help they need.”
Additional pumps are pumping at Saltmoor and Northmoor, to help reduce levels as much as possible when the River Parrett has capacity. Extra pumps are also ready to use at Currymoor once conditions allow Once the water level at Currymoor has reduced, Athelney spillway will stop flowing into Northmoor as well as the A361 between East Lyng and Burrowbridge. A flood warning for that area remains in place and the road is closed.
A flood warning has been issued for Saltmoor and Northmoor and agency officers were in the village of Moorland yesterday to meet with residents and offer advice and support.
To allow pumping to continue more frequently and for longer at impacted pump stations, water is being diverted to the Sowy flood relief channel and King’s Sedgemoor Drain to Dunball, where pumps are being installed to allow pumping to continue in the event of high tide.
The Environment Agency urges residents to check their flood risk by signing up for flood warnings and create a flood plan so they know what action to take and are prepared to act. You can find links at https://check-for-flooding.service.gov.uk.
Do not drive through floodwater. It is the number one cause of death during flooding and puts yourself and rescue agencies in jeopardy. Floodwater can contain hidden dangers such as uncovered manholes, obstacles or sewage – so never enter floodwater and be careful around riverbanks and spillways. During this cold snap there is also the risk that floodwater could freeze, so we also remind people to never walk or play on or near ice.
We know that the declaration of a major incident may trigger feelings of anxiety, fear or worry, particularly for those who have been previously affected by flooding. Talk to somebody about how you are feeling, if you don’t feel able to talk to friends or family you can call Mindline – Somerset’s emotional support and mental health helpline which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 01823 276 892 (local) 0800 138 1692 (freephone).
There is further information to help you on what to do during a flood on the Somerset Prepared website. The key point is to always stay safe, in an immediate flood emergency or where there is a risk to life, follow the advice of the emergency services.