Third storm to hit Shropshire with communities still reeling
The Shropshire communities devastated by floods welcomed a brief period of respite – but a third storm in four weeks is set to continue the onslaught this weekend.
With the River Severn finally receding, albeit slowly, on Thursday and Friday, the people of the Ironbridge Gorge, Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth are still counting the costs of the floods that have forced many people out of their homes and businesses.
The Wharfage in Ironbridge bears the scars of the flooding with deep gouges appearing after a section of barrier was pushed back.
"I don't know why I'm bothering. I have lost everything," said one Coalbrookdale café owner.
Chris Harrison of the Dale End Café admitted he would have given up trying to salvage his business by now if not for the support of his community.
The café has been flooded three times in the last two weeks, firstly after a nearby brook rose dramatically on Sunday, February 16 – the day the team was supposed to be celebrating their second anniversary in the café – and then twice more when the River Severn burst its banks in the aftermath of Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis.
Refrigerators, freezers, counters and expensive wall coverings were all damaged when water flooded in.
Mr Harrison and his staff have been working long into the night to pump water out, but he fears that with Storm Jorge set to wreak further destruction this weekend, their efforts may be in vain.
He said: "My shop now has no water in it but we are now under threat of another intense weather system. We are preparing for the possibility of another flood which would be the fourth in two weeks.
"I am looking at the rain now thinking that we have got it all to come again.
"I don't know why I'm bothering. If it wasn't for the community behind us I would have given up the ghost by now.
"I am defending an empty shop.
"There is a stench in the shop at the moment from the river water – it's horrendous.
"The emergency services have a lot on their plates, they're working bloody hard to save the areas that can be saved.
"We can't be saved."
Need help - here's where to find it
- Financial support is available to those affected, with a £500 payment and possible follow-up grants. Call 0345 6789006 for details.
- Our councils offer up to date advice. In Telford call 01952 384000, in Shropshire call 0345 678 9006 and in Powys call 0345 602 7035.
- If your food business had been affected, contact Shropshire Council Health Protection Team. Call 0345 6789067 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- The government provides a guide on recovery from a flood. Visit gov.uk/government/publications/personal-flood-plan
- The Environment Agency can give advice on watercourses near your home or business. Call 03708 506506.
He said he was "humbled" by the response from the community. Leegomery resident Julie Ward organised an online fundraiser while his shop assistants Chloe Horton and Sarah Jones have been helping out voluntarily despite having been let go because of the hit to revenue.
"We have had people as far away as Australia sending us messages saying they hope we get back on our feet. I am humbled by everyone's reaction.
"We have had things from other businesses that have been affected, the guys at Ironbridge Interiors offered to build us a counter."
Staff from The Wrekin Housing Group have been out this week assisting customers living in properties affected by the floods.
Meanwhile Shrewsbury's mayor, Councillor Phil Gillam, said that he had been struck by the wonderful community spirit in the town but that people were approaching the end of their wits.
"I went with Belle Vue councillor Kate Halliday to see the clean-up operation in Coleham and everyone was out helping everyone else," he said.
"It is a pretty desperate situation as these are small, independent businesses that have been hit twice now in quick succession and it is still raining."
"Everyone is keeping a close eye on the forecast and river levels, surely it can't happen a third time."
Councillor Gillam said it was important not to underestimate the strain the flooding was having on people.
"One of the serious aspects of this is the psychological effect this is having on individuals. There is only so much people can put up with and at the moment they must be at their wits' end."
Report by Rob Smith and Sue Austin