Environment Agency & StreetScene (in orange) teams

‘Be prepared’ – East Devon’s emergency flood response proves it is more than ready for extreme weather conditions in Exmouth

Sandbags were at the ready in Exmouth over the weekend (April 9-10), as East Devon District Council’s StreetScene and REACT (Respond, Enforce and Clean) teams, took fast and efficient action in preparation for predicted south/easterly 50-60mph winds, heavy rain, exceptionally high Spring tides and the risk of potential coastal flooding through wave overtopping.

The council had staff on site throughout the high tides, closely monitoring the situation and liaising with the public on both Saturday and Sunday.

Approximately 900 sandbags were placed in key areas of Exmouth by StreetScene and the Environment Agency, who worked throughout the weekend in close partnership with Devon Highways.

On Saturday (April 10), with dramatic wave overtopping threatening to flood roads with seawater, critical access points along the seafront were sandbagged, including: St Andrew’s Road, Morton Crescent gateways, Alexandra Terrace and Alston Terrace.

In addition to 150 filled sandbags, around 500 empty sandbags were available for residents to collect and fill with sand, which they were able to take from a one tonne dumpy bag placed outside the gates to the council’s Camperdown depot. Shovels were left alongside the bags for people to help themselves.

Devon Highways closed all the appropriate access roads around the seafront, although cars needing to leave the area were still able to do so.

As a precautionary measure, the sandbags remained in place until overnight on Sunday (April 10), when it was agreed that the storm had abated and there was no further risk of flooding.

When the weather is predicted to be extreme the council can undertake a limited amount of sandbagging using filled sandbags in locations most at risk. However, East Devon District Council’s normal procedure is to provide unfilled sandbags to town and parish councils for distribution to communities.

It is a householder’s responsibility to protect their property from flooding and the council would urge people to prepare in advance for this. Residents can sign up for flood warnings, so they are aware and can prepare. They can also follow @eastdevon, @streetsceneops and @EnvAgencySW for extreme weather warnings and storm advice. The following links are to sites that are a useful source of information:

Sign up for flood warnings (England and Wales)

Prepare for a flood and get help during and after

Personal flood plan

Sandbags: how to use them to prepare for a flood

Commenting on the excellent work carried out by the StreetScene and REACT teams, Andrew Hancock, East Devon District Council’s Service Lead for StreetScene, said:

I am so proud of how well prepared our teams were for the extreme weather conditions. From the minute the flood warning was confirmed our guys were ready with sandbags and a clear action plan, based on experience from the storms of 2014 when wave overtopping caused seawater to pour down roads along the seafront, flooding homes and businesses and causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

It was altogether a great response to this emergency, even though the storm didn’t impact as strongly as had been predicted, it showed that we were ready to take the necessary appropriate action. I would particularly like to thank the Environment Agency for their excellent work with us. They shared critical information with us, which enable us to work more efficiently, plus they worked tirelessly alongside us throughout the storm. I would also like to thank Devon Highways for making sure the road closures were in place, ensuring that cars were rerouted away from the flood hot spots. The whole weekend was a brilliant example of what can be achieved with a successful partnership.

Councillor Iain Chubb, East Devon’s portfolio holder for the Environment said:

I must congratulate StreetScene, REACT, the EA and Devon Highways for their outstanding work over the weekend. We’ll be continuing this excellent partnership working by way of the planned flood defence options for Exmouth, which not only has the longest seafront in Devon, but is also the start of the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage site. In June 2016, we’ll be submitting a business case for funding of improved flood defences in Exmouth to the EA, which will include the Esplanade from Mamhead Slipway along to the Clock Tower. Detailed design work is likely to start this autumn if we are successful. The scheme would remove the need for sand bagging and provides a far higher standard of protection, however the Esplanade would still need to be closed off during storm events such as these.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said:

We acknowledge that it is impossible to completely flood-proof a property, but there are a number of measures to prevent flood-water getting in and limit the damage. We list a number of ways to make your home "flood resilient", which will limit the damage and allow residents to return to their property quickly. We are working with East Devon District Council to improve the sea and estuary defences in Exmouth.