POLICE patrols are being increased in Yorkshire’s flood-hit communities to prevent raids on homes and businesses that have been swamped in the worst autumn deluge for decades.
North Yorkshire Police confirmed yesterday that high-visibility patrols are being deployed to areas hit by rising waters across the county to provide support for residents and businesses hit by the most intense September storm in the UK for 30 years.
Officers are keeping a close check on empty properties to prevent burglaries after flood-hit areas elsewhere in the country witnessed raids on affected properties earlier in the week. Bikes worth thousands of pounds were stolen from KB Cycles in Newburn in Newcastle on Tuesday night in a crime branded as “despicable” by Northumbria Police.
North Yorkshire officers will also be attempting to ensure the public keep away from roads and bridges that are closed because of the flooding and still require structural safety inspections before being re-opened.
A team of divers had been deployed by North Yorkshire County Council yesterday to carry out structural surveys to three bridges on the most strategically important routes in Tadcaster, Boroughbridge and Skipton-on-Swale.
However the work could not be carried out as the waters were deemed to be too dangerous and the Environment Agency confirmed river levels had not fallen as quickly as had been first predicted.
Assistant Chief Constable Iain Spittal said: “The flooding situation ... is gradually improving and the area remains open for business.
“The current position demonstrates the hard work and response of the emergency services, including the military and other agencies, who have worked tirelessly throughout this period.
“While challenges remain for the various agencies, including dealing with road closures, pumping away flood water and in some places getting people back in their homes, we are satisfied as a strategic group that we are entering the recovery phase. All partners will remain vigilant while water levels remain high.”
While forecasters are predicting mainly dry periods throughout today, rain is expected to return to the region tomorrow. The Environment Agency confirmed more than three-quarters of an inch of rainfall is expected in some areas, although he stressed that nearly four inches of rain had fallen in just a day-and-a-half to cause the widespread flooding.
The River Ouse in York was due to have fallen to nearly 14ft above normal summer levels in the early hours of today, after it had peaked at about 16.5ft – the second highest level since records began.
As many as 300 properties have been affected across the region by flooding and the rising waters from rivers including the Swale, Ure and Nidd as well as the Wharfe, Ouse, Derwent, Aire and Dearne.
York was the worst hit part of the region, and 50 of the city’s properties were flooded by the rising levels of the River Ouse with a further 30 premises affected by surface water and over-spilling sewers. Householders and business owners were warned yesterday by York Council to ensure they wear gloves and protective clothing during clean-up operations to avoid coming into contact with contaminated water.
Bus services will remain disrupted and road closures will be in place throughout the weekend, said a council spokeswoman.
An Environment Agency spokesman stressed flood defences protected a total of 13,286 properties in the Yorkshire and Humber region and a total of 4,460 flood warnings were issued to homes and businesses. Agency officials are continuing to monitor the situation closely, with the Leeds incident room operating around the clock.
North Yorkshire County Council confirmed about 15 bridges have been affected, and are either still submerged or awaiting a structural inspection by engineers.
A council spokeswoman added: “We have yet to reach all the minor bridges and where we have opened roads with bridges, we will still be inspecting those as well, as they may also have been affected by flooding.”