RISING floodwaters trapped drivers, shut roads and cancelled events but new flood defences in Worcestershire held up in their first real test since being built.
The defences that were put up in the aftermath of the devastating 2007 summer flooding at the villages of Powick and Kempsey, near Worcester, and Upton-upon-Severn near Malvern, all had water levels lapping at their foundations.
David Throup, incident commander for the Environment Agency, said floodwaters swelled hugely on parts of the river Teme in localised flooding, causing problems for home-owners and drivers from Cleobury Mortimer to Newnham Bridge.
Several people trapped in cars in the floods in the wider Tenbury Wells area also had to be rescued by the emergency services.
Closer to Worcester, some country lanes in Kempsey, Tibberton and Crowle were turned into miniature brooks with run-off from the fields inundating ditches.
Mr Throup said the floods were by no means a repeat of the “exceptional” events of 2007, but were the first test of defences at Powick, Kempsey and Upton.
He said: “They’ve all had the water up against them and they’ve performed credibly. We have people on the ground as this is the first time they’ve been tested to make sure nothing is getting through. So far, so good.”
Alongside the police and fire service, the agency’s 20-strong team has been working all weekend. It was set to begin a clear-up of river debris, while the county council’s road gangs will be clearing blocked or silted drains.
At Kempsey, once the country’s most-flooded village, newly installed defences built with the help of money raised by action group Kempsey FLAG, were working well, said parish council chairman Councillor Bob Bowley.
“Although the river is high, I haven’t had any notices about homes being flooded, so it seems to be working,” he said.
In Upton, where defences were formally opened on Friday night with a blessing from Prime Minister David Cameron, West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin welcomed the completion of the permanent barrier.
However, she said: “Once again, high water levels are threatening the county and there is still much to do, including finding a permanent solution for Tenbury.”
With the ground saturated by days of persistent rain, the levels on the river Teme have surged, but the river Severn has stayed lower, at the level of a normal winter flood, said Mr Throup.
He said there was an anxious wait in places such as Tenbury Wells as the river Teme came up, but that the rainwater had drained off further to the east.
That meant road bridges near Tenbury, including Newnham Bridge, Eastham Bridge and Ham Bridge had to be closed by Worcestershire County Council. The A443, and the A456 were badly affected. Those bridges were back open to traffic yesterday following safety inspections.
At Diglis in Worcester, the Severn river gauge peaked on Sunday at 7pm, but was falling yesterday – although the swans were still enjoying a nose around the South Quay, where children usually play in the fountains.
Yesterday, the flood warning on the river Teme was cancelled after the river peaked, although a flood alert was still in force on the river Severn as your Worcester News went to press.
Weatherman Paul Damari said more rain and heavy showers were still to come, but they would be clearing by Friday and the weekend, when we might get a short-lived brighter spell. Temperatures will feel humid until the weather breaks.
Among events cancelled due to the wet weather is the hugely popular Welland Steam and Country Rally near Malvern, which was due to be held in the last weekend of July.
The 100-acre farm site is waterlogged, with the grass yet to be cut, so organisers have re-scheduled the show for September 21-23.
New Road cricket ground in Worcester was also flooded, while a final decision on whether to run the meet tomorrow at Worcester Racecourse is due to be made today.