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Stormy start to 2014 with 60mph winds

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 01, 2014

By Tristan Cork

Gloucestershire highways engineers repair a landslip caused by heavy rain on the B4058 near Horsley , Stroud , Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire highways engineers repair a landslip caused by heavy rain on the B4058 near Horsley , Stroud , Gloucestershire

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The West will begin 2014 today as it ended 2013 – hit by storms, high winds, floods and disruption – as severe weather again lashes the region.

Road and rail travel is expected to be badly affected throughout today, with the Met Office issuing a weather warning for heavy rain, and the Environment Agency expected to increase the number of flood warnings and alerts, many of which are still in force from the storms in the week before Christmas.

Residents in Horsley, a picturesque village near Nailsworth in Gloucestershire, had to be evacuated yesterday after a landslip threatened homes, while engineers battled to stop further damage.

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The situation in Horsley has been developing over previous months: subsidence on the main road, the B4058, between the village and nearby Nailsworth has been the subject of work by council authorities earlier this year, but the recent heavy rain in late December has made the problem worse.

The road has been closed and homes lying directly beneath the troublesome spot have been evacuated to avoid any danger if the rest of the steep-banked hillside slips any further.

"This site was already being monitored closely and work was under way to correct previous issues," explained Vernon Smith, Gloucestershire county council highways chief.

"The heavy rain has meant some slight changes to the embankment and, as a precaution, we have had to close the road and make sure the surrounding area is safe.

"As soon as the road has been investigated further we will be able to look at what action needs to be taken," he added.

The forecast does not look good for Horsley, or for the many communities around the region already blighted by floods.

In Somerset, the Levels are once again filling up with water, with a number of roads blocked, while Tewkesbury has become an island once more, with localised flooding around the edge of the town.

In Wiltshire, the medieval Town Bridge in Bradford on Avon was finally reopened after council workmen removed "several lorry loads" of debris that had built up on the road and up against the bridge from the floods which struck on Christmas Eve and lasted for a few days.

And further up the River Avon in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, householders will be bracing themselves for more flooding.

The town's football club, Malmesbury Victoria FC, pressed on with their plans for a fundraising New Year's Eve party last night, despite only just clearing out two feet of floodwater from the clubhouse towards the end of last week.

A mass community operation to fill more sandbags has taken place.

In Keynsham, council chiefs have closed a footbridge across the River Chew in the town's Memorial Park, after floodwater eroded the sides of the river around the bridge.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency warned that today's heavy rain could easily send river levels high again.

"On New Year's Day, heavy rain is expected which could cause flooding to communities in the south west of England," she said.

"There is a heightened flood risk for parts of south west England. Counties at increased risk of flooding are Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Sussex, Surrey, Kent and Cumbria," she added.

The Met Office has said that as much as 40mm (1.6in) of rain could fall on higher ground or coastal areas, and there are likely to be gales of 50-60mph accompanying the deluge.

The latest bad weather is set to push in from the Atlantic, crossing the UK from west to east. With the ground already saturated, some minor flooding is likely, the Met Office warned.

Councils are preparing for the worst, with emergency accommodation lined up in case people are forced to leave their homes, and the Local Government Association is urging people to look on council websites to keep updated with information.

The Environment Agency spokeswoman said: "The Environment Agency is urging communities to prepare in advance by signing up for free flood warnings and to take action if they receive one. A flood warning indicates that flooding is expected.

"Environment Agency teams have continued to work around the clock on the ground, operating pumping stations, issuing flood warnings and checking that flood banks, walls and barriers are working effectively," she added.

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