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Floods chaos hits region

PUBLISHED: 18:12 15 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:10 06 July 2010

Mopping up is underway today after parts of Norfolk were hit by flash floods. ore than half of Norfolk Fire Service's crews were out dealing with a deluge of calls and firefighters battled to pump water away as drains overflowed and could not cope with the volume of water.

Mopping up is underway today after parts of Norfolk were hit by flash floods.

Just days after celebrating the announcement she had been made an MBE Wayland stalwart Jan Godfrey was left surveying the damage Monday's freak storm had wreaked on her home.

The monsoon-like rain and giant hailstones which battered parts of Norfolk yesterday left a trial of devastation and today families and businesses were still counting the cost of the ferocious summer weather.

Mrs Godfrey's house in Broadmoor Road, Carbrooke, near Watton, seemed to have bore the brunt of the devastation in the village.

It was left under several inches of water while a carpet of knee deep hail covered the driveway.

This morning friends and neighbours helped clear the tonnes of ice before it melted and caused even more damage.

And after having been flooded previously Mr and Mrs Godfrey were also bracing themselves for months of work to get their beloved home back to normal.

But despite the devastation Mrs Godfrey continued to display the positivity and thought for others which have made her a central pillar of the community in Wayland and saw her put forward for the MBE.

She said: “Last night I did shed a tear or two but we will come through it.

“We have a wonderful family and neighbours and at the end of the day that is more important.”

“The hail was above my knee and my feet have never been that cold. The road was just like a river,” she continued.

“There is four inches of muddy water right through the house.

“We are also devastated about the garden - all those lovely summer flowers and vegetables.”

Elsewhere others also began to pick up the pieces and inspect the damage.

Insurers are now dealing with dozens of claims for everything from flooded warehouses and damaged stock to soggy carpets and furniture.

Rail services between Norwich and London returned to normal following the chaos which saw Ipswich railway station evacuated and signalling equipment damaged due to lightening strikes.

In Ringstead, Hunstanton and Heacham, roads which had been turned into rivers on Monday, reopened.

Barbara Walden, who works in The General Store in Ringstead, said: “Nobody's known anything like it round this area before.

“The shop is fine but some houses close by got flooded and out where I live, between Holme and Ringstead. I didn't have a road I had a river. There was about six inches of water.”

Stuart Ward, partner at Wards Nurseries in Ringstead, said: “We've lost a bit of stock but other than that it's been bright sunshine all day.

“The water's all gone, its just silt deposits left. The hail did more damage because it shreds the leaves of the young plants.

“It's not rained like this since I've been here, it last happened about 30 years ago.”

Despite having been flooded, after a deluge of water poured through the roof, Watton's Tesco supermarket also reopened as did other affected shops along Watton High Street.

EDP readers also began to share their stories and send in photos of the incredible weather.

Arabella Sandcraft from Carbrooke took some stills photos at the height of the storm.

She said: “I couldn't get home through the water so my neighbour sat in our house with our children to make sure they weren't scared.

“I abandoned my car and walked in. The scenes which I found were surreal.

“As I approached the village it looked like it was on fire from the mist and steam rising. It was covered in ice and ice blocks were floating down the road.

“The village is in a state of disbelief, plants and gardens have been stripped completely and several houses did get flooded.”

Catherine Taylor, from Ashill, videoed the storm on her mobile phone.

She said: “I was one of the unlucky people to be stuck on the B1108 at Scoulton.

“I cannot begin to describe the noise from the hail pelting my car, absolutely deafening. My children, who are both under 4, were terrified.

“We endured a long journey home seeing Carbrooke on sea, Watton under water, and Saham Toney completely closed off.”

Monday's weather saw more than half of Norfolk Fire Service's crews called out to deal with a deluge of calls and firefighters battled to pump water away as drains overflowed and could not cope with the volume of water.

Watton and Heacham and Sedgeford were the worst hit areas.

There were 127 call outs between 4 and 7pm.

Norfolk Fire Service spokesman Martin Barsby said: “The sheer volume and speed of calls has been quite phenomenal and that is the very nature of flash floods.

“The volume, the time and the unpredictability has made it extremely difficult to cope with.

“It has been a very challenging afternoon and it is very hard for the fire and rescue service to get to everyone and there is nowhere for the water to go.”

Mr Barsby said: “The worst problems started in the west of Norfolk but the focus then became Watton where there were nearly 40 calls in 30 minutes.”

In Watton there were about 40 calls in an hour at the height of the storm from about 4.30pm.

Up to 18 inches of surface water was standing in parts of the town, including the entrance to the Threxton Road Industrial Estate. Numerous shops along the High Street were flooded.

In the Heacham and Sedgeford areas roads were closed, streets were cut off and a couple of houses had three feet of water in them.

Several inches of flood water has also been left in areas such as Hunstanton, Dereham, Hingham, Feltwell, Southery, Brandon, Fakenham and Attleborough.

Some cars in parts of Norfolk were abandoned as the deluge intensified.

Police and passers-by helped pull some drivers from vehicles.

There were also some minor accidents as cars aquaplaned on the flooded roads.

Huge hail stones also fell, creating hazardous conditions for motorists.

The control room at Hethersett had to draft in extra personnel to cope with the massive demand with more than a call a minute being received.

Police told people in the worst hit areas to delay journeys.

Weather forecasters said up to two inches of rain had fallen in some areas and they warned that the torrential rain, hail and thunder and lightning were spreading across Norfolk.

The first call was in Heacham at about 1.30pm and there was flooding at the medical centre in Station Road.

The storms then started to spread across the county,

In Watton, homes, shops and businesses were flooded out and roads in the town were turned into rivers and storm grids were lifted up.

The whole of the Tesco store was flooded with staff standing on pallets to prevent them from getting wet.

The store was closed for health and safety reasons and the managers said the clean-up was due as soon as possible.

At electrical store Adcocks in the High Street water caused a huge deluge of water which forced up to the cellar and was even coming in through the walls.

Owner Paul Adcock said: “We had some rain through the ceiling but more of it came up through the cellar. We've got damp carpets and walls, it's not so much loss of stock but taking the time to clean up the mess.”

Further down the road at Wayland House, home of the Wayland Partnership, prompt action by fire crews prevented severe flooding but water found its way into the boiler room and crews spent up to an hour pumping it out.

Centre manager Iain Cockburn was left soaked to the skin.

He said: “It started to come into the building and I dialled 999 and luckily they came straight away and were here in 20 minutes despite all the other calls they had.”

The road between Watton and Swaffham had to be closed after the river burst its banks.

John Whitehouse, who lives on Swaffham Road, said that at the height of the rain police were having to pull cars and people out of the water using a van.

When Mr Whiteside returned home he found water steadily building up outside his front door.

After the rains subsided, and as he and his friends bailed out the patio in front of his house, he said: “It was a very narrow escape.”

He blamed the new estates higher up the road and failure of the drainage system as reasons why water encroached so close to his home.

At Gina's pet shop on Watton High Street the deluge left rabbits housed in the shop's back yard, swimming for their lives.

Luckily, swift action by pet shop staff averted any loss of life.

Owner Gina Ayres said: “The back yard was completely flooded, we literally had swimming rabbits.

Luckily everyone one was ok and we have had help from the vet.”

At Blaine's shop, water had flooded through the ceiling. Manager John Core said: “Water had travelled more than 25 metres along the shop floor in just five minutes.

“I've never seen anything like it.” Sophie Rix summed up the feelings of many in west Norfolk as fire crews from across the area were called out to pump out homes and gardens in Sedgeford, Ringstead and Heacham.

As firefighters used squeegees to push the last of the muddy torrent which had run through her mother Margaret Christie's cottage on the Heacham to Docking Road, Mrs Rix said: “The forecast said thundery showers, they never said it was going to be anything like this.”

Worst-hit were properties at the bottom of the hill in Sedgeford, where water ran down into the village from the surrounding fields.

Fire crews arrived to find half a metre of water in the house, while at the rear of the property, the waters had risen almost twice as high at the height of the downpour.

Hailstones the size of marbles filled the flowerpots, as Mrs Rix's husband Ian and friend Sean Ely swept the last of the water towards the pumps.

Stephanie Steward had come to check her daughter Sara Stafford's property in the former post office across the road.

“My daughter's in Peterborough. I got a phone call saying could I go and survey the damage,” she said.

Carpets throughout the ground floor were still soaked after water ran through the house.

“She's just on her way now, I dread to think what she'll say when she sees this,” added Mrs Steward.

Mud caked the pavements, while sand and gravel showed where roads through the village had become rivers. The River Heacham looked set to burst its banks.

Many country roads were closed, as water collected to a depth of a metre or more in dips. Police closed the Heacham to Docking Road, while the road from Sedgeford to Ringstead - where a sign warned of flood risk - was also impassable.

People living in Heacham's Stainsby Close found themselves cut off as the waters rose. Firefighters took more than two hours to clear the deluge.

“We had the highways people out and they said the drains were full up and they were fighting a losing battle,” said pensioner Graham Seaman, as he and his wife Elizabeth surveyed the flooded garden of their bungalow.

Around the corner, off Lamsey Lane, Nick Cawthorne had his own pumps and a fire engine clearing his low-lying garden.

“I've lived here 40 years and never had a problem like this before,” he said.

Attleborough was hit by a torrential downpour and thunder and lightening from about 5pm, which turned roads into streams and gardens into paddling pools.

Vera Dale, town mayor, whose garden was flooded, said: “The rain has been really coming down for about 40 minutes and has been bouncing off the roads and there is a lot of water about. I have not been out yet, but I suspect it has hit the usual flash flooding pockets in the town.”

A telegraph pole was hit by lightning in Caston, near Watton. There was also a lightning strike on a fence in Hethersett.

For more storm coverage see Wednesday's EDP.

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