Thursday, 30 October 2008

Ottery St Mary

Whenever I stay with Helen and Ian we visit Otter Nurseries near Ottery St Mary, crossing the River Otter at a narrow bridge, above. The town itself is not somewhere you expect to hear mentioned on the national news but while I was washing up at lunchtime today, with the news on in the background, I suddenly heard the name and was horrified to see it had been devastated by floods and hail. The whole town appears to have suffered and I dread to think what has happened out at the Nursery. I wish all of the residents and businesses a speedy recovery.

The story as outlined by the BBC was as follows:-

Severe flooding, which left a Devon town virtually cut off, was caused by a "freak" overnight hailstorm, the Met Office has said. Devon and Somerset Fire Service described the situation after 1ft (0.3m) of hail fell in the Ottery St Mary area as "absolute chaos". A woman in labour was one of the dozens of people rescued from flooded homes and cars, said police. They warned motorists that road conditions were "treacherous".

Cars in the town were left tightly packed in ice after about 1ft (0.3m) of hail fell in just two hours between 0100 and 0300 GMT. The storm has been described as a "freak event" by the Met Office, which said the weather which hit the town was "hugely localised". "It seemed to be centred on Ottery St Mary," a spokesman said. Rhianne Thorneywood, whose house had flooded in minutes, told BBC News: "I've never seen lightning like it, and rain. We didn't realise it was hail and snow until I looked out and saw what I thought was foam floating on the water, but it was ice."

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said 25 people were rescued from flooded homes in Ottery St Mary and Feniton. They were taken to the hospital in Ottery St Mary, which is being used as a shelter for people who have nowhere else to go. One fire crew got stuck themselves - in a 2m drift of hail.

The Environment Agency said two vehicles fell into Ottery St Mary's Firs Brook, one getting wedged on top of the other, which may have exacerbated the flooding. Car owner Martin Ashfield said: "I woke up this morning and the car was missing. It had obviously floated away. The Environment Agency called me and told me where it was."

The town had been preparing for a carnival this weekend, ahead of its annual Tar Barrel Rolling festival on 5 November.

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