COMMUNITIES are being warned of the possibility of more flooding after the most intense September storm for decades left 400 homes and businesses flooded and caused widespread chaos.
The A1 near Catterick and the A66 near Darlington remained closed today due to flooding, while train services were still subject to severe disruptions and delays throughout northern England and Wales as a result of flooding and landslips.
Concern is now focused on the River Ouse in Yorkshire and its tributaries, such as the Derwent, Swale and Ure, with the possibility of flooding in towns including Ripon, Borough Bridge and Tadcaster.
People living close to the River Ouse in the York and Selby areas were bracing themselves as water levels continued to rise and the Environment Agency issued a range of flood warnings for the area.
The agency said those stretches of river were particularly vulnerable as the huge amount of rain which had fallen over the Yorkshire Dales in the last two days worked its way through the system.
In Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, the bridge which carries the A659 over the River Wharfe was closed last night as engineers made checks.
Town mayor Steve Cobb said the river was the highest he had seen it since devastating floods hit the town in 2000.
He said a number of businesses close to the river had been flooded but he was taking what comfort he could from an Environment Agency estimate that the river level had gone down 1cm.
But he said the river was tidal at Tadcaster and a high tide was due later.
“We’re one community but we are split in two today,” Mr Cobb said.
“We are totally dependent on the bridge. It’s a four or five mile trip around without it, just to get to the other side. We have a doctors on one side, schools on both sides, all sorts of businesses on either side.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed. We’ve got everything crossed,” Mr Cobb said.
“I’ve been assured it probably won’t collapse but it’s worrying that it may be closed for some time for checks.”
There were 75 flood warnings for potential river flooding in place this morning, focused mainly on north west and north east England, and more than 100 less serious flood alerts.
But places such as Morpeth, Northumberland, which flooded yesterday after the River Wansbeck burst its banks, appear to have seen the worst of the conditions and water levels were now falling.
Hundreds of people were forced to spend last night in temporary accommodation after their houses flooded in three days of heavy rain brought on by what was, UK-wide, the most intense September storm since 1981.
Emergency services dealt with hundreds of call-outs yesterday as people were left stranded by floodwaters and overflowing rivers surged into homes and businesses.
Volunteers from the RNLI helped a rescue mission last night in Stockton, Teesside, more than 10 miles from the sea.
The charity’s flood rescue team used their inflatable dinghy to take people from homes in Wrensfield Road and transported gas engineers to the scene of suspected leaks.
Gareth Wilson, RNLI training divisional inspector, said a local beck had broken its banks and flooded homes.
“RNLI flood rescue team volunteers are all specially trained to deal with flood conditions and most of the team involved tonight were also involved in the Cockermouth flood rescue operation three years ago, so they have a wealth of experience in these situations,” he said.
“Even so, it is always shocking to see the damage and distress that flooding can cause.”
Staff working at the North Yorkshire Police headquarters, on the outskirts of Northallerton, have been told to report to the nearest police station or work from home after roads in the area were flooded overnight.
A force spokesman stressed that the headquarters building, which is in Newby Wiske, is not an operational police station and the disruption will not affect day-to-day policing of the county. He also said the building itself was not flooded.
Flooding near Northallerton halted trains on the East Coast Mainline yesterday, preventing train travel between London and Scotland on the east coast route, and there is only a limited service running on the line today.
A 40-mile (64km) diversion was still in place this morning on the A1 in North Yorkshire as assessments continued on the flooded section near Catterick.
Many areas have had more than a month’s rainfall in a few days, with Ravensworth in North Yorkshire seeing more than 5ins (131mm) fall since Sunday, compared to the average for September of less than 2ins (47mm).
The Met Office said the heavy and continuous rain of the past few days was dying out, but some areas could still experience localised, heavy downpours today.
York City Council said the River Ouse had flooded riverside car parks, footpaths and roads in areas which are often affected by high water levels.
A spokeswoman said the river was 14.4ft (4.4m) above the average summer level this morning. But she said the Ouse reached 17.7ft (5.4m) above the average in the floods of 2000.
She said: “So York is very much open for business and all agencies have sufficient resources in place.”
The River Ouse is expected to peak in the next 24 hours and then decrease steadily, she added. The Environment Agency said around 400 properties had flooded across England and Wales since Sunday, when the wet and windy conditions began to hit.
Alison Baptiste, flood risk manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Flooding has a devastating impact on people, families and communities, and our thoughts are with those who have been flooded this week.
“We would urge people, especially in the North of England, to continue to be prepared for flooding, sign up for free flood warnings, keep up to date with the latest situation, and stay away from dangerous floodwater.
“Our teams have been out around the clock over the last few days to minimise the risks and prepare for flooding and we are continuing to deploy teams across the country to keep communities safe.”
At Snaith in the East Riding of Yorkshire, the agency said it was working to reinforce existing flood defences to protect the town.
The following roads in York are closed or restricted today (September 26):
• A19 (Germany Beck) with diversions on Heslington lane/A64
• Monks Cross Link Road
• Acaster Malbis (riverside road)
• Nether Poppleton (riverside road)
• Naburn at Howden Lane
• Terry Avenue
• St George’s Field Car Park
• Esplanade Car Park
• Huntington Road (restricted access)
• Tower Street (inbound access to Clifford Street closed)