Heavy rain, strong winds and high tides are causing widespread flooding across North Devon this morning, prompting Devon and Cornwall Police to declare the storm a major incident.
The Environment Agency has issued severe flood warnings across North Devon, which warn of a danger to life and property.
Devon County Council has said homes in North Devon are some of the worst effected by today's floods, with properties in Lynmouth, Bideford, East-the-Water and Bishops Tawton being hit. So far 35 homes in the county reported being flooded.
The council has added that there is still concern over homes in Westward Ho! being flooded, and urgent repair work is under way to replenish the pebble ridge, which was damaged by the storm overnight, before this evening's high tide.
The sea wall at Instow has collapsed, in front of The Commodore Hotel, and debris is on the road.
Barnstaple Square was closed this morning due to flooding, although it has since reopened, and Pilton Park is submerged with floodwater.
We will be keeping you up-to-date all day with live coverage as the storm batters North Devon. Keep checking back for the latest road closures, disruption to public transport and other flood-related incidents.
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- Parts of Northam Burrows and its roads are under water so the gates to the country park have been closed. Torridge District Council said they will be re-opened as soon as it is safe.
- Broad street in Ilfracombe is reportedly flooded at the Ropery Road junction.
- Flooding has been reported on the Strand in
Barnstaple, on the A3125 at the Long Bridge junction.
- Barnstaple square has reopened after being earlier closed due to flooding.
- The A361 between Wrafton and Braunton is flooded.
- The B3233 between Instow and roundabout and the New Road junction is currently closed.
- Wilder Road in Ilfracombe is blocked between the Brookdale Avenue junction and the Promenade junction because of flooding.
WOOLACOMBE Surf Lifesaving Club has been left to pick up the pieces of today’s storm after rough seas destroyed part of the group’s clubhouse.
Debris was left scattered along the beach this morning after strong currents tore apart the foundations of the building.
Although the main hut has been undamaged as it is held in storage during the winter, club organisers have said the construction of a new base could cost up to £10,000.
Kevin Cook, club president, said the group would endeavour to make sure the club could be up and running again by next summer.
He said: “It always comes as a sharp reminder of the natural power of the ocean.
“The top of the hut is being stored, but we will be needing completely new foundations. They have been in place for about 20 years which just puts in perspective how strong the sea was.
“To create another base to put the existing hut on it’s going to cost anything from £5k to £10k.
“But we will do whatever we can. We will make sure that Woolacombe Surf Lifesaving Club will be up and running next season.”
Kevin said work to clear debris from the beach will begin once the worst of this weekend’s weather has passed.
A decision on how to replace the destroyed base will be made following a meeting of the group’s committee in the coming weeks.
IN WESTWARD Ho! the high tides breached a part of the Pebble Ridge near the go-cart track overnight. Torridge District Council organised a bulldozer and digger to replenish the affected parts as soon as the water had receded this morning. Engineers are currently on site assessing the situation.
The council has said replenishing the ridge is a priority to protect nearby properties before this evening's high tide.
THE INSTOW seafront by the Commodore hotel has flooded and a wall has fallen into the road.
Commodore head receptionist Diana Martin said: "The seafront has completely flooded and the water's come over the wall.”
Councillor Frank Biederman said attention was now focused on this evening when another high tide is expected.
He said: "The defences did their job but only within a couple of inches. The concern now with the wall going is are they going to do their job?
"That's our immediate concern. The Highways Department are now working to make sure we are as prepared as possible for this evening's tide."
The road is expected to remain closed until at least Sunday as work to shore up and repair the damaged section of wall is completed.
North Devon Council has sent a street sweeping team to Ilfracombe Pier car park to clear up the debris left after large waves crashed over the sea wall at high tide at 7am this morning.
There is also a significant amount of debris in Castle Quay, Barnstaple, and the car park has been closed for safety reasons. It is expected to be cleared of debris next week when high tides subside.
The council’s street sweepers will also be clearing roads in Instow and other areas of Barnstaple and Ilfracombe affected by flooding.
North Devon Council confirmed this morning it had received no calls from residents requesting to be moved to temporary accommodation because of flooding.
However, the authority said technical officers are inspecting a number of locations across North Devon and taking action where required, including the flooded Pilton Park in Barnstaple.
Councillor Yvette Gubb, executive member for emergency planning and community, said: "North Devon had plenty of warning of this morning's potential floods and as a result, the communities worked together to protect themselves and their properties.
“Thankfully, it appears that we escaped the severe flooding we were preparing for. Nevertheless, it reflects the importance for all communities to have a suitable emergency plan in place, should the worst occur."
Several bus services across North Devon are currently affected by flooding.
Flooding in Barnstaple, Ilfracombe and Westward Ho! is primarily affecting Stagecoach's 21/21A services.
The bus firm is running a shuttle service between Barnstaple and Instow (21) and between Barnstaple, East-the-Water and Bideford (21A). However, the 21 will not be accessing Instow sea front until further notice due to the collapsed wall.
Other destinations on the 21/21A route cannot currently be served.
Service 70 cannot currently serve Weare Gifford.
Trains between Barnstaple and Exeter are currently running 30 minutes behind schedule due to high winds.
VIDEO: Flooding at Ilfracombe Harbour this morning. Video uploaded to YouTube by Martin Webber.
The Environment Agency has issued five separate severe flood warnings for North Devon and warns there is a danger to life in towns and villages along the coast from Clovelly to Lynton.
As well as flood warnings, the Met Office has also issued a severe weather warning for North Devon which warns of wind speeds of up to 70mph.
A chief forecaster at the Met Office said: “Another spell of unsettled weather is expected on Friday with further wet and windy conditions likely across western areas in particular.
“Winds will gust to around 60-70 mph over coasts and hills, locally 80mph along some exposed Irish Sea coasts. Inland, gusts up to 50mph are likely.
“Lowering pressure will combine with high tides around the UK coastline and bring the risk of some flooding. Tides will be very high, and the public should be aware of the risks of large waves and coastal flooding.”
An Environment Agency spokesman said overtopping of coastal defences is likely as high energy large waves and spray combine with high spring tides and high winds.
“Flooding is expected at exposed coastal locations. Gusts of wind of up to 65 miles per hour and large waves of six to nine metres are forecast," he said.
“High spring tides and significant surge combined with large waves from the south west will lead to flooding at numerous locations.
“Beaches, coastal promenades, roads and footpaths will be extremely dangerous.
The worst effects will be on coasts that face a south-westerly direction. The public are advised to avoid these areas.”
High tide hit the North Devon coast at 7am as firefighters went on strike from 6.30am to 8.30am.
Severe flood warnings are in place for the following areas in North Devon:
River Taw from Bishops Tawton to Barnstaple
Including: Low lying areas on the tidal River Taw, including Bishops Tawton
River Torridge from Weare Giffard to Bideford
Including: Low lying areas on the tidal River Torridge, including Weare Giffard, Bideford East-the-Water, Wooder Wharf and Northam
Taw Torridge Estuary
Including: Low lying areas and communities in the Taw Torridge Estuary, including Instow, Appledore, Fremington, Muddlebridge, Braunton Marsh, Velator, Wrafton, Chivenor and Yelland
Including: Low lying and exposed parts of Ilfracombe, including Cheyne Beach, The Quay, The Strand and Broad Street
Westward Ho!, Combe Martin and Lynmouth
Including: Low lying or exposed parts of coastal communities in North Devon, including Clovelly, Westward Ho!, Watermouth Cove, Combe Martin and Lynmouth
Two severe weather warnings are in place for North Devon over the next couple of days.
A severe weather warning of wind is in place for all coastal areas of Devon and Cornwall for the whole of Friday.
There is an additional severe weather warning of rain in place for the South West between 9am and midnight on Sunday.
It warns of continued heavy rain in the region and predicts rainfall totals could be in excess of 40mm.
VIDEO: Fishing boats rocking in the harbour in Ilfracombe this morning. Video uploaded to YouTube by Sara Hodson.
The latest stormy weather to hit the region has prompted Devon County Council and Devon and Cornwall Police to issue warnings to members of the public.
The warnings follow the tragedy in Croyde on New Year’s Eve in which a woman died after getting into difficulty while swimming or surfing in the bay.
Devon County Council has urged people to take care particularly in coastal areas.
Stuart Hughes, the council's cabinet member responsible for highways maintenance and flooding, said: “The big concern at present is the risk of coastal flooding over the next few mornings.
“This is due to combination of very high tides, a surge and very large waves. Some properties along the coast will be at risk of flooding.
“Where road users encounter standing water on the road, I urge them to please slow down. Bow waves caused by driving too fast through standing water can damage other people's property.
"And with high winds and high tides expected, I recommend not parking on esplanades or coastal roads, and that the public stay clear of sea walls or fast flowing, swollen rivers.
“As dramatic as it is, the conditions can be risky and we do not want people putting themselves or others in danger.”
The council has said that it continues to work closely with the Environment Agency and police to help manage the severe weather conditions the region is facing today.
Motorists are being warned to take extra care on North Devon's roads, and to avoid driving through any patches of deep water.
The council's contractors have been working to manage flooding on the roads, with gully cleaning equipment and drain jetting equipment being used to help reduce the impact of flooding. But with tides rising again this evening, there is little that can be done to control the water.
Signing is being used to warn drivers of temporary road closures and areas where flooding is likely.
The County Council said it has real concerns, which are shared by the Police, about drivers ignoring road closure signs and putting themselves and others at risk.
Councillor Stuart Hughes said: "People driving through flood and standing water are actually making the problem worse by creating bow waves and causing surges of water onto homes and business properties. We are asking motorists to be considerate, drive slowly and carefully and not to try and drive around road closed signs - these are put up for the public's own safety."
The council’s highway teams are on standby and ready to respond to highway issues over the next few days, when more bad weather is forecast.
It is urging drivers to observe signing that is put in place to protect the public using the highway.
Devon and Cornwall Police urged people not to enter the sea during stormy conditions.
A spokesman said: “There are people who enjoy swimming in all weathers as well as those who may underestimate the danger a rough sea can pose.
“During the current bad weather we would appeal to everyone to use common sense and not put themselves in unnecessary danger.
"In addition, people who enjoy walking on beaches and rocky areas should take care not to allow themselves or their pets to get to close to waves.
"Although we have not had any recent instances, there have been occasions when large waves have washed people and animals into the water resulting in deaths.”
HM Coastguard said those who enjoy walking on beaches and rocky areas should stay away from the surf line during this period of extreme weather.
VIDEO: This footage uploaded to YouTube by Sky News, shows Colin Brazier reporting in Ilfracombe as lightning hits the town.
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