Somerset Levels floods: As it happened on Friday 31 January 2014

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  1.  
    06:30: Chris Sandys BBC News

    As military personnel remain on standby to help on the flooded Somerset Levels and more persistent rain is forecast from midday, we will bring you the latest from the affected areas.

    BBC Somerset is broadcasting a special programme with reporters in areas such as Muchelney, which has been cut off for almost a month.

     
  2.  
    Weather warning 06:39:

    An amber weather warning has been issued by the Met Office for south-west England, valid from midday until 03:00 on Saturday.

    Bad weather

    It says heavy rain will affect the region and warns of "significant disruption" from flooding across the Somerset Levels.

     
  3.  
    River Parrett 06:49:

    BBC Somerset's Ben McGrail tweets: "Check out how high the Parrett is at Burrowbridge this morning. I'm live here on @BBCSomerset today - 95.5 FM / 1566 MW"

    Flood water on the River Parrett
     
  4.  
    Floods in figures 06:59:

    Villages such as Muchelney have been cut off for almost a month after heavy rain began to fall at the start of the year.

    Some 11,500 hectares (28,420 acres) of the Somerset Levels are flooded by about 65 million cubic metres of water.

     
  5.  
    07:09: Andrew Plant BBC News

    Three hundred tonnes of sand have turned up in Burrowbridge, destined for sandbags. But no-one is sure who ordered it.

    Lorries deliver sand to Somerset
     
  6.  
    Massive disruption 07:20:

    BBC Somerset reporter James Craig, in Muchelney, says: "The overriding sense is that people are just frustrated and weary.

    "Broadly speaking the situation is improving. The water is going down and the road between Thorney and Muchelney is now passable to 4X4 vehicles, but the disruption to people's lives has been massive."

     
  7.  
    Long-term plan 07:29:

    Following last night's Cobra meeting, the government's emergency response committee, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said good progress was being made on a 20-year plan to deal with flooding on the Somerset Levels.

    He hopes the plan will be agreed sooner than the six-week deadline he had previously set.

     
  8.  
    Wonderful wellies 07:39:

    Thorney Lakes tweets: This has to be one of the only positives of living in Muchelney. Pictures and the fun the children have.

    Children splashing in flood water
     
  9.  
    Weather stats 07:51:

    It has been a wet month in the South West, but only the fifth wettest on record (so far).

    The Met Office said 222.6mm of rain had fallen across in the area and south Wales from 1-28 January.

    Nearly 70 years ago, in 1948, the record was set when 244.3mm of rain was recorded in the same region.

     
  10.  
    Round-up 08:00:

    Latest on the flooding in Somerset:

    • Flood waters have inundated the Levels, including villages and hamlets, for a month
    • An amber weather warning is in place for heavy rain later
    • A major incident was declared a week ago and the government has pledged support

    More on-air on BBC Somerset who have reporters in both Muchelney and Burrowbridge - listen live.

     
  11.  
    Festival founder 08:10:

    Farmer Michael Eavis, the Glastonbury Festival founder, says draining or dredging is the only way forward if farming is to continue on the Somerset Levels.

    Michael Eavis

    "I say it floods every winter here now, it's not a hundred year thing - that's completely false information," he said.

     
  12.  
    Pumping operation 08:18:

    Richard Cresswell, regional director of the Environment Agency, tells BBC Somerset the total volume of water being pumped off the Levels is equivalent to an Olympic-sized swimming pool being emptied every 1.5 seconds.

     
  13.  
    As it happened
    • Updates on the flooding in Somerset
    • Including pictures and reaction
    • Listen: BBC Somerset
     
  14.  
    Local knowledge 08:26:

    BBC Somerset's Ben McGrail tweets: From the people I've met in Burrowbridge & Moorland it's clear they feel they have excellent local knowledge and want to be listened to.

     
  15.  
    Distance dredging 08:35:

    Speaking on the BBC's Question Time last night, a former Environment Agency press officer told the audience it was trying its best but he didn't think they were setup in the right way.

    Mark Littlewood on Question Time

    Mark Littlewood, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, added: "Trying to co-ordinate with how you deal with Somerset and the particular problems with drainage and dredging from an office in Whitehall is utterly ridiculous."

     
  16.  
    Marriage misery 08:46:

    Muchelney resident Charlotte Herb says she and her husband have been kept apart because of the flooding.

    "The last four weeks have been quite tough. My husband started a new job two weeks ago in Axminster," she says.

    "He can't get back so he's having to stay with my sister in Drayton which is hard as he's only a mile and a half down the road. This is the longest we've been apart."

     
  17.  
    Abandon the farmland? 08:54:

    Michael Eavis, the Somerset farmer and founder of the Glastonbury Festival, said: "It floods every single year now and it never used to.

    "For the sake of the meadows, the wild flowers, the fields, the farmers and the cows, this drainage has to be done, there's no other way of doing it and the choice is of course to abandon the farmland and let it all flood and leave it all to wading birds."

     
  18.  
    Dutch courage 09:03:

    BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme earlier spoke to the chairman of the Dutch Farmers' union, LTO.

    Flooding on the levels

    The Netherlands has inspired a 10-point plan, drawn up by the Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium, to beat flooding on the Levels.

     
  19.  
    Dredging delays 09:10:

    The Environment Agency says it could take several months before dredging work can begin on the rivers through the Levels.

    Regional director Richard Cresswell told BBC Somerset they have to wait for all the water to drain off the Levels, and for the river banks to become safe, before heavy equipment can be brought in.

     
  20.  
    Join the debate 09:15:

    What does the future of the Somerset Levels look like?

    BBC Somerset is broadcasting a debate and your views are welcome. Call 0845 303 1566, or text 81333 and start your message with the word "Somerset".

    Joining Ben McGrail in the BBC Somerset bus in Burrowbridge are:

    • Peter Maltby: Chair, Parrett Drainage Board
    • Ola Holmstrom: Head of water for consultancy firm, WSP Group
    • Mark Robins: RSPB
     
  21.  
    Mystery delivery 09:21:

    BBC reporter Andrew Plant earlier tweeted that hundreds of tonnes of sand had arrived in Burrowbridge, but no-one knew who had ordered it.

    Well, mystery solved. Essex businessman Roger Patey has donated the sand and other equipment to help keep Burrowbridge dry.

    "What we've tried to do is bring down specialist flood defence ... and have this whole area secure," he said.

     
  22.  
    Weather in numbers 09:28:

    January 2014 has been mild and fairly sunny but significantly wetter than normal, with some parts of the UK experiencing record-breaking rainfall.

    Weather in numbers sources from Met Office
     
  23.  
    09:35: Ian Fergusson BBC weather forecaster

    Rain is now spreading east across West Somerset; a bit faster than yesterday's models but the net is result the same. Six to eight hours of wet weather today.

     
  24.  
    Somerset 'spin' 09:46:

    A Labour MP has branded calling in the military to help with the flooding relief effort as government "spin".

    Soldier in Somerset

    Emily Thornberry, shadow attorney general, told BBC Question Time last night: "This is policy making by photo opportunity. It's very unfortunate.

    "The Prime Minister said he was going to call in the Army and the Army arrive and they go home again. This is the way we seem to be running things."

     
  25.  
    Storing water 09:56:

    Peter Maltby, chair of the Parrett Drainage Board, tells BBC Somerset improving water storage in the upper catchments of the River Parrett will work, but not for decades.

    A swollen River Parrett in Somerset

    "When I met Owen Paterson I raised that with him," he said.

    "It's going to take 15-20 years to have any positive results from this sort of policy. It will work, but don't expect it to work tomorrow.

     
  26.  
    Round-up 10:01:

    Latest on the flooding in Somerset:

    • The Met Office has warned of persistent and heavy rain expected across Somerset today
    • The Environment Agency says it will take months before dredging work can begin, as flood water needs to run off the Levels first
    • Lorries delivering hundreds of tonnes of sand have arrived in Burrowbridge, courtesy of an Essex businessman who has made the donation

    More on-air on BBC Somerset who are reporting live from Muchelney and Burrowbridge - listen live.

     
  27.  
    10:12:

    Avon and Somerset Police Chief Constable Nick Gargan tweets: I've shuffled the diary round a bit to allow me to pay a visit to Multi-agency Silver Control in Taunton later this morning to thank staff.

     
  28.  
    Farming finances 10:25:

    Beef farmer James Winslade, 40, grows grass and corn on 840 acres around Moor Land and says 95% of his land is currently inundated with water.

    He is a third-generation farmer, with the family having been in the area for 150 years.

    Once again there will be no insurance payout, he says, because this is classed as a natural disaster. Similar floods in 2012 led to financial losses for him last year of more than £150,000.

     
  29.  
    10:35:

    Over the past month of flooding the Western Daily Press photographers have taken hundreds of pictures. You can see galleries of their pictures here.

     
  30.  
    Bunny escape 10:44:

    In terms of wildlife being rescue from flooded areas, things have been "relatively quiet" at the Secret World rescue centre.

    However two flood victims currently being cared for are baby rabbits which were moved out of their Chew Magna burrow because of floodwater.

    A baby rabbit

    Secret World's Debbie O'Keefe said: "We rely on the general public finding things in distress, but no-one is really going out and about because of the water."

     
  31.  
    Water pump 10:54:

    Martin Carnell, from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue, says six large pumps being used by the service on the Levels are moving 1.25m litres of water per hour.

     
  32.  
    Moving forward 11:05:

    Councillor David Hall, deputy leader of Somerset County Council, said he was delighted with the help offered in the last week.

    "Particularly with the direct intervention of the Prime Minister the day before yesterday," he said. "That has really moved things forward to a huge degree. At last we are making progress."

     
  33.  
    11:15:

    Following a brief dry spell, Somerset County Council will be monitoring river levels as another weather front moves in today coupled with a forecast high tide.

    The Somerset County Gazette is offering live updates about the situation, warning of more heavy rain on its way to the Levels.

     
  34.  
    Dredging delay 11:23:

    Dredging of rivers in Somerset will not begin until all flood water has drained off the Levels and river banks are safe, the Environment Agency says.

    Residents are ferried through Somerset flood water by a tractor and trailer
     
  35.  
    Have your say 11:37:

    Bill and Carole from Huish Episcopi ask via email: "Why did the government not declare a major incident as suggested by our MEP and access the European disaster fund as they did last year for Gloucester?

    "As we are talking about costing, could we have some transparency to where the £2.3billion has gone which the prime minister has said many times has been allocated to flood defences?"

    You can tweet us @BBCSomerset or email somerset@bbc.co.uk

     
  36.  
    Force needed? 11:48:

    Chief Superintendent Caroline Peters, of Avon and Somerset Police: "What the military can bring is a very quick response with additional resources should we require them.

    Military planners visit the Somerset Levels

    "At this stage though, we are very comfortable with the civil contingencies that we have in place and the resources we have, we can manage this."

     
  37.  
    Cobra meeting 11:52:

    Twenty-four hours on and the government's emergency response committee will meet again to discuss the latest flooding situation.

    Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will chair the Cobra meeting, due at 18:00.

     
  38.  
    12:01:

    Latest on the flooding in Somerset:

    More on-air on BBC Somerset who are reporting live from Muchelney and Burrowbridge - listen live.

     
  39.  
    12:11:

    BBC Somerset's Ben McGrail tweets: Heavy rain now falling on Burrowbridge on the Somerset Levels now - the last thing this area needs.

     
  40.  
    Home delivery 12:22:

    Six-wheeled vehicles have been deployed by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue to be used as a taxi service for cut-off villagers.

    Fire crews attempt to pump water

    Mark Carnell, from the fire service, said: "We've had one of those at opposite ends of the flood to enable people to be able to get to and from their properties, and we've been helping some residents with the delivery of pharmaceuticals."

     
  41.  
    12:31: Alex Forsyth BBC political correspondent

    The prime minister has confidence in the way the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has handled the recent flooding, according to his spokesman.

    Mr Paterson is expected to chair another meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee this afternoon amid forecasts of more heavy rain for this weekend.

    A spokesman for David Cameron said it is "absolutely right" to be working with local authorities and wider agencies to tackle the problem.

     
  42.  
    12:43: Jon Kay BBC correspondent, West of England

    Government sources tell me they are now taking the flooding situation in Somerset "by the scruff of the neck" following claims from local people that they have been getting mixed messages from different levels of local and national government in recent days.

    After the in/out confusion about military involvement yesterday, Defra clearly want to make sure the various agencies involved should now speak with one voice - with a clear, single message.

     
  43.  
    12:50: Jon Kay BBC correspondent, West of England

    The Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, Nick Gargan, will shortly give an update on behalf of all the various parties.

    We expect more detail later today from Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.

     
  44.  
    'Rot and smell' 12:58:
    Flooding in Thorney

    Flood victim Michael Brown tells BBC Somerset he has had 2.5ft (0.8m) of water in his Thorney home for the last fortnight.

    "The worst part is the total derailment of your life. Your work and social life goes to pot and you just concentrate on surviving," he said.

    "When the water goes down you're left with this disgusting mess downstairs and it begins to rot and smell."

     
  45.  
    13:06:

    Environment Agency South West tweets: High tides, strong winds & large waves in the south west this weekend. Check latest flood warnings.

     
  46.  
    Royal visit 13:14:

    The Prince of Wales will visit flood victims in Muchelney and Stoke St Gregory next week.

    Prince Charles

    Prince Charles was already due to visit the area to see how it coped with flooding in 2012, but he will now receive a very real taster of life in a flood zone.

     
  47.  
    'Relentless' rain 13:21:

    Speaking on the BBC's News at One, reporter Claire Marshall said: "An hour ago the weather front moved in and it's relentless.

    "The people here are fed up at the reaction which they say was too little, too late."

     
  48.  
    Points West 13:29:

    Reporter Andrew Plant will be live in the village of Burrowbridge with the latest on the floods during BBC Points West, on BBC One (West) at 13:30.

    Andrew Plant
     
  49.  
    13:39:

    Jane Toft tweets: #bbcnews are reporting live from just down the road from me at Burrowbridge. Looking out of the window it's filthy out there.

     
  50.  
    13:52: Chris Sandys BBC News

    As the rain takes hold and nerves are strained once more on the Somerset Levels, I am going to bid you farewell.

    Emma Hallett will be bring you more updates during the afternoon. Thank you for your company.

     
  51.  
    'Sandbags will soon be tested' 14:05:

    BBC reporter Andrew Plant tweets: Burrowbridge. Seriously wet. If this rain keeps coming those sandbags will soon be tested.

    Burrowbridge
     
  52.  
    14:15: Emma Hallett BBC News

    I will be here for the afternoon with continuing coverage of the flooding situation in Somerset.

    If the rain is particularly bad in your area, let us know via @BBCSomerset on Twitter or email somerset@bbc.co.uk

     
  53.  
    Royal visit 14:29:

    Somerset County Council's chairman, David Fothergill, says he is "delighted" that the Prince of Wales will visit next week and see the "full extent" of the flooding.

    "I'm sure that, like the council, the prince will want to thank the many volunteers who have pitched in to help out all those suffering as a result of these floods," he said.

     
  54.  
    Weekend tide problems 14:40:

    Flood warnings have been issued by the Environment Agency for the Somerset coast at high tide on Saturday morning.

    These include at Burnham-on-Sea, Portishead, Portbury Dock and Clevedon.

    It said overtopping and onshore flooding may occur where waves crash against the face of a seawall or as a result of sea spray where strong winds blow water onshore.

     
  55.  
    14:51:

    Inspector Andy Pritchard tweets: Very busy at the mobile police station in Moorland. officers are also helping to fill sandbags #somersetfloods

    Officers filling sandbags
     
  56.  
    14:58: Ian Fergusson Weather presenter, BBC Points West

    Today's band of rain will clear east by or during this evening, but heavy showers will follow-on from the west later into tonight and tomorrow.

    We're keeping the amber warning for heavy rain on the Somerset Levels in force until 3am on Saturday.

    Somerset resident Nigel Griffiths, 63, from Throney, walks his dog Cassie as rain begins to fall heavily on the already flooded Somerset Levels

    Thereafter, it gets more complicated. There will be wintry showers early Saturday, with some snow accumulations possible above 150-200m and a warning for icy roads. This is followed by another warning, this time for strong winds - with gusts touching 50-60mph in places.

     
  57.  
    Weekend warnings 15:06:

    A Flood Warning has also been issued for the tidal River Parrett at Bridgwater, Manley Gardens and East Quay areas.

    The Environment Agency said flooding is expected for low lying areas on the river at high tide on Friday evening and Saturday morning.

     
  58.  
    15:14:

    BBC Somerset's Ben McGrail tweets: A little look at the Parrett from Burrow Bridge (in Burrowbridge...obviously). You can really see how swollen it is.

    River Parrett
     
  59.  
    15:22: Ian Fergusson Weather presenter, BBC Points West

    There are very high tides this weekend. Combined with storm surge effects, these pose a significant risk of coastal flooding in parts of the Bristol Channel and tidal stretches of rivers such as the Severn.

    There's a five-star bore on the Severn on Sunday too, but at least the weather that day looks a good deal better than Saturday.

     
  60.  
    'Unusual and unchartered territory' 15:33:

    Visiting the multi-agency control centre at Taunton police station, Avon and Somerset Police Chief Constable Nick Gargan says the longevity of the flooding has put them in "unusual and unchartered territory".

    Nick Gargan

    But he said the situation on the ground is "under control" and people are "not really in danger".

    "We've seen a bad weather forecast for the weekend, but if the rain does what we think it is going to do and the tides are when we think they are going to be and if the wind does what we think it is going to do, we should be ok," he added.

     
  61.  
    Have your say 15:43:

    Bob in Taunton emails: "We all know that the Levels have flooded in the past but not to the extent it has in the last couple of years. One of the answers has to be dredging which should never have been stopped in the first place."

     
  62.  
    Why has it been so wet? 15:53:

    As figures suggest parts of England have had their wettest January on record, BBC meteorologist Nick Miller explains what caused all the rain.

     
  63.  
    16:00: Emma Hallett BBC News

    That is the end of today's updates on the floods. You can get all the latest in our main news story or by listening to BBC Somerset.

     

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