Dorset braced for more wild weather

Courtesy of the Dorset Echo

With more than a quarter of February’s average monthly rainfall expected today, fears are growing for areas already hit by floods.

And gale force winds and large waves are set to batter the Dorset coastline tonight and into Saturday.

Waves up to 30ft high are set to crash on to beaches, promenades and coastal paths at high tide, which could put lives at risk if people get too close.

Residents in Chiswell on Portland are being put on flood alert and the Portland Heights Hotel is again on stand-by to act as an emergency rest centre if people there need to evacuate their homes.

Portland Beach Road and Preston Beach Road in Weymouth will be monitored in case flooding forces temporary closures tonight.

Further inland, ground water and surface water issues will again be a problem due to heavy downpours.

Simon Parker, the county council’s emergency planning officer, said: “We have rest centres on standby in case we need to evacuate people from their homes. Residents should prepare for flooding.

“Drivers need to check their routes and give themselves more time.”

West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin was due to hold an emergency meeting with Charminster residents this morning about flooding in the village.

Many villagers say a council-owned Grade II bridge, which is protected by English Heritage, impedes the River Cerne’s water flow and causes flooding.

Charminster’s St Mary the Virgin Church and two village homes were hit by flooding last month. Now fears are growing that the swollen River Cerne will burst its banks, with the Met Office issuing an amber weather warning for South West England from 6am to 2pm today.

The Rev Janet Smith of St Mary’s Church said there is ‘anxiety’ in Charminster over more flooding.

“The church is now dried out but people are still very anxious there could be flooding.

“We are concerned for the local people and for the church.”

“In good heart we hope it doesn’t flood again. We go down to look at the water level every day.”

Milborne St Andrew flood warden Steve Lord said villagers fear more flooding if something isn’t done to improve the drainage in Milton Road.

Ten homes were flooded last month and villagers had to wade through 18 inches of flood water to reach the local shop.

Mr Lord said: “We’re not afraid about what’s to come, we’re taking it as it happens.

“As a community we fully appreciate the severity of what people are going through on the Somerset Levels.

“What we cannot cope with are drains in the road that are not fit for purpose.

“Milton Road has one nine inch diameter drain and the drainage does not work.”

Dorchester weatherman John Oliver said the average rainfall for February in the area is 82mm and around 20mm is predicted today.

He added: “If we get 20mm of rain in normal circumstances that would not be any problem.

“But because everything is saturated it’s running off the ground and doesn’t absorb anywhere. It runs off into the gullies and the water level rises and rises. Any amount of rain is bad at the moment how things are.”