Storm Franklin: Ironbridge residents evacuated as 'danger to life' flood warning issued
Parts of Ironbridge are now being evacuated with the force of the Severn threatening to overwhelm flood defences and posing a "significant risk to life".
Flood barriers at Ironbridge are at risk of "overtopping" and the water could pose a risk to human life, said the Environment Agency, after days of heavy rainfall pushed defences to the limit.
Residents are advised to back a bag with essentials and follow instructions from the emergency services.
Issuing a severe flood warning, the Environment Agency said: "We expect flooding to affect properties on the Wharfage, Ironbridge. Environment Agency staff will now evacuate the site. Residents must evacuate from behind the defences due to the risk.
"Please move possessions and valuables off the ground or to safety and turn off gas, electricity and water. Please have a bag ready with vital items like medicines and insurance documents and activate any property flood protection products you may have, such as flood barriers and air brick covers. Please follow advice from emergency services."
The deployment of flood barriers along the Wharfage in Ironbridge over the weekend - before river levels rose significantly on Monday - brought back painful memories of last year and especially 2020, when the force of the Severn pushed similar barriers back, gouging the road in places. Businesses and homes were flooded and residents counted the costs for months.
A year ago heavy flooding caused similar disruption across the county with the River Severn reaching a maximum height of 6.71m in Ironbridge.
The arrival of Storm Franklin on Sunday has led to a series of flood warnings being issued along the River Severn in Shropshire as water starts to spill over the banks.
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In its flood warning issued on Monday, the Environment Agency said it expected properties on Ferry Road to flood, and predicted the river to peak at Buildwas between 6.6m and 7.0m on Tuesday night.
Telford & Wrekin Council has also declared a major incident, urging people to avoid Ironbridge Gorge and to not drive through any flood waters.
Sandbags are available to residents from Wharfage Car Park (accessible via foot only), Ironbridge Central Car Park and in the last parking bay outside the Black Swan Pub.
The council has also closed The Wharfage (to vehicles only), The Lloyds, Coalford and Ferry Road, while Madeley Road - originally due to be closed until mid-April for essential roadworks - has reopened with temporary traffic lights.
Carolyn Healy, borough councillor for the Ironbridge Gorge and Telford & Wrekin cabinet member for the environment, said that devastating events were becoming more and more common.
"What used to be something that happened once every 10 or 20 years is now happening once a year or more than once a year in some cases," she said.
"For residents and businesses that doesn't give you a lot of time to recover or prepare - drying out your property takes a long time."
Thankfully, Councillor Healy said, residents and business owners have since been able to access resilience funding from central government to help make their own properties safer in the event of flooding. The council has also been able to identify different points at which properties in the Gorge flood for a more directed approach to flood prevention.
But this week's water levels will have been a depressing reminder of past disasters for those who live and work along the river.
Councillor Healy said: "You just really feel for those people who are affected. I wish it was possible to make sure nowhere flooded at all but without wholesale changes further up the river...
"I just hope this is it for the winter."
Charlotte Wade has run Wild Iris, a clothing boutique and ladies gift shop in Ironbridge for two years and kept her shop closed today.
She said: "We were out helping with sandbags yesterday but took the decision to close today as they are advising people not to visit the gorge.
"We don't suffer from flooding in the shop much ourselves as we are quite elevated but obviously the area does and it can keep people away. We will re-open when we are advised to and the situation is getting better."
But Christine Darlington, of Darlingtons of Ironbridge said the same thing happens every year and eventually people might have to learn to live with it.
She said: "The flood defences are in place and we will have to hope they do their job but I think the thing is to be prepared for it to happen and not be surprised when it does. That's not to say preparations can't be made to guard against it but there is always an air of inevitability about it."