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Flood defences are overtopped and bridges collapse in Cumbria

Historical levels of rainfall in Cumbria over the last 36 hours have overtopped flood defences on the River Cocker and Derwent at Cockermouth, and caused the collapse of three bridges.

Northside Bridge in Workington collapsed leaving a police officer missing. It was the main bridge into Workington on the A597 and the collapse is thought to have been caused by the weight of the water of the flooded river. Lorton Bridge near Cockermouth and Southwaite footbridge in Cockermouth have also collapsed.

Police are now urging members of the public not to use bridges as vantage points to view the flood waters.

Roads across the Workington and Cockermouth area have also been closed. A landslip between Carlisle and Penrith caused the West Coast Main Line from London to Glasgow to close and there is flooding on the line at Lockerbie.

New flood defences have been sucessful so far in Carlisle following a recent £38M investment, as well as in the villages of Llanrwst and Trefrw in north Wales. Environment Agency and local authority staff erected temporary defences for an extra 400 properties in Carlisle last night.

Historical rainfall

MeteoGroup UK forecaster Julian Mayes called the rainfall a “historical event”. He said: “Primarily, it’s the sheer quantity in the last 36 hours that has caused the flooding. But in November the ground is saturated. The rain can’t get into the soil, it just runs off. That means rivers rise very quickly and suddenly.”

Environment minister Hilary Benn has called the situation “very serious”.

He said water defences in Cockermouth had been improved in the late 1990s, but it was now facing record levels of water. More recent defences had held up, he said.

“In November the ground is saturated. The rain can’t get into the soil, it just runs off.”

MeteoGroup UK forecaster Julian Mayes

“Clearly we are going to have to look in the light of what has occurred to look at what can be done,” he added. “But I think it is important to emphasise the quite exceptional nature of the rainfall we have seen in a very short space of time in Cumbria.”

Flooding was also reported in Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland, where 30 roads closed in “treacherous” conditions.

In mid- and north Wales, roads were closed and train services disrupted, and a brief power cut in Anglesey affected 2,000 homes.

A further 100mm of rain is expected over the north west by early Friday, with further unsettled weather and severe gales predicted for Cumbria, western parts of Scotland and north Wales. Police said water levels in Cockermouth centre had reached more than 2.5m.

Readers' comments (7)

  • Paul Hargreaves

    This emphasises the need for implementing the floods and water management bill in a holistic way rather than in a cut down form as suggested by politicians recently so that it considers

    1. Existing drainage systems as well as new development to reduce runoff from urban areas
    2. Flood resilient buildings so people can recover from such flooding events quickly
    3. Mapping of exceedance flows from all sources including foul sewers, surface water sewers, SUDS, fluvial and tidal
    4. Preparation of plans that consider safe means of access and egress from those areas most at risk from flooding including critical infrastructure
    5. Implementation of schemes of work that enable the hazards identified in 3 to be managed by item 4.

    All of which will require adequate funding and an acceptance that this country needs to invest not only in flood defence, but also in resilience, managed retreat, and employing people to deliver this on a local level.

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  • God Bless the police! Lets have a campaign to name the replacement bridge in Workington the 'Bill Barker Memorial Bridge' as a tribute to the man who died when the original fell in to the flood water. Clive - Oxfordshire

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  • Albion Rover says:

    Lets not have any unsubstantiated nonsence about this being caused by man-made global warming, cows farting or the use of "dirty" coal for power generation.

    Floods have always ocurred. As we develop the flood plains and pave more of the land surface, they tend to become more destructive. This is not an effect of man-made global warming, let alone a proof as was claimed on five live today.

    The climaste has been cooling for the last ten years. The medieval warm period was real and was warmer than today. It was a time of plenty, not climate induced catastrophe.

    Let reason, not scaremongering, prervail

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  • It is indeed impossible to correlate one extreme weather event with global warming and building on flood plains, including roads with accelerated run-off, is undoubtedly stupid. But it is equally stupid to deny we have a climate problem that requires a huge response. Antarctic ice cores show that, at no point in the past 650,000 years did levels approach today's carbon dioxide concentrations of around 380 parts per million (ppm). These concentrations have risen by 20% in the last fifty years and 10% in the last twenty. It is entirely rational to seek to prevent further increases, because the potential downside of climatic catastrophe is much greater than the downside (cost) of a low-carbon economy...

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  • Good to see the ICE getting in the press on this issue.
    However, I personally find it interesting that when applying to be a Chartered Engineer, you cannot have Flooding as your specialism - take your pick betwenn 'water' or 'drainage'!

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  • D Davenport

    Bridges are usually built, no doubt for reasons of cost, at the narrowest part of a river which, when combined with several arch supports, severely reduces the cross section of the river with regard to hydraulic flow properties. This results in increased water velocity and subsequent scour action around the foundations. Rivers should be widened at bridge locations, or bridges built at wider parts of the river, so that the average cross section can be maintained for optimum water flow.

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  • I'm always shocked to hear an engineer (I assume Albion Rover is an engineer) use poor arguments & selective evidence at any time but on the subject of Global Warming it seems surprisingly common.

    He quotes some “facts” he cannot know personally so must have discovered them from some climatology research. Also the information was probably filtered through a journalist looking for a good story. Climate researchers tell us these things from investigating tree growth rings, ice cores, historic texts etc. They put together evidence, modelling etc & the results are subject to peer review. So along comes AR and others and says it isn’t happening. What about melting of glaciers & the Arctic ice cap, clear in summer? Is it just too inconvenient for us to believe what we are being told? When a layman can tell an engineer how to design a bridge then an engineer can tell a climatologist he is wrong. It’s called science! If you don’t understand, it learn or shut up.

    Fortunately most of our politicians have been convinced & they are implementing many policies to slow & reduce greenhouse gasses. But they are held back by a large proportion of the electorate who don’t want the necessary changes. As we have democracy change will happen but probably much slower than is necessary.

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