BURTON was today emerging from a full-scale flood alert which swamped homes, closed roads — including the A38 which remained closed this morning — and shut businesses and schools.
The Environment Agency warned homeowners to act fast to protect their property as the River Trent continued to rise, swollen by heavy rain.
Branston cancer campaigner Ian Leech cancelled his appearance on the BBC’s Newsnight after receiving one of the agency’s alerts.
“It’s fairly dramatic and something I never thought would happen here,” he said.
One couple beat the chaos by crossing the rugby pitches on Burton’s Washlands in a boat.
Homes in Lichfield Road, near Branston Water Park, were among those swamped while properties in Willington were evacuated and an emergency centre opened at Findern Village Hall, in Castle Hill.
As alerts were issued for the rivers Tame and Dove, the emergency services pleaded with drivers to ‘stop putting their lives and those of their staff at risk’.
The call came after motorists battled conditions which shut the A38 and gridlocked arterial routes including the A444 and A511.
West Midlands Ambulance Service general manager Nathan Hudson said: “We were called to several incidents where cars tried to pass through flooded roads, fords and small rivers and got stuck.
“Occupants have become trapped and the emergency services have had to risk difficult and often dangerous conditions to rescue them.”
Staff at Molson Coors’ office in High Street, Burton, were evacuated and sent home at 3pm as the floodwater threatened to spill over walls near the building and Burton Library.
Eton Park Junior School, in Masefield Crescent, Horninglow, closed and John Taylor High School, in Dunstall Road, Barton under Needwood, shut early.
The National Memorial Arboretum closed for the first time in its history due to flooding from a tributary of the Tame, with 1ft of water standing in Croxall Road, its main access.
Water also engulfed car parks and left the course unplayable at Branston Golf and Country Club, although The Pavilion and clubhouse remained open and alternative parking was found at Trentside Cricket Club.
Staff used golf carts to ferry people back and forth from the Faldo Close area to functions inside the main buildings.
Meanwhile, the RSPCA, firefighters and Water Safe UK used a boat to rescue an elderly dog and a cat with a heart condition from a property in Milton.
A spokesman for Newhall Weather Station said: “We have had all that rain in the summer and the ground is that saturated it has nowhere to run off to.”
But although hit by rainfall elsewhere, the Burton area only had 20.8mm from Friday to noon yesterday, he explained, adding: “It’s not been as bad as the rest of the country, nowhere near.”
Although showers were forecast for yesterday afternoon, the remainder of the week would be drier and cooler, with some frosty mornings, he said, adding: “We’ve seen the back end of that heavy rain.”
Roads to ruin as water rises
COMMUTERS were today expected to face another tortuous journey to work as flooding continued to cause unprecedented problems on the roads.
Emergency services and transport chiefs warned travellers to take extra care after heavy rainfall overwhelmed rivers to leave much of the land near Burton under water.
Their warnings came hours after many major roads and some minor ones were left gridlocked as drivers battled to get to work.
Motorists were eventually forced off the ‘chaotic’ A38 between the A50 and A5 after it was closed by the Highways Agency on the orders of police. Traffic was diverted along the M42, A42 and M1.
Nathan Hudson, West Midlands Ambulance Service general manager, said: “People who attempt to pass through flooded roads are not only putting their own lives at risk, but also the lives of the emergency services staff who have to rescue them.”
He urged people to show ‘a little bit of common sense’ to ensure lives were not endangered.
Mike Maryon, Staffordshire County Council highways chief, said: “The important thing is to stay safe.
“Take extra time and extra care on your journey and don’t be tempted to ignore signs of flooding.”
Although vehicles appeared to be moving freely around Swadlincote, they were reduced to a crawl near Burton, particularly on the A444 and A511, adding minutes or even hours to the shortest of journeys.
Minor roads, including those in Repton, Walton, Catton, Alrewas and Draycott-in-the-Clay, were affected.
Frustrated motorists resorted to taking risks.
A spokesman for Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “We’ve had a lot of people travelling down roads that are flooded and even going down roads signed as closed.
“They are damaging their vehicles and getting stranded in floodwater because they are risking it.
“We would ask people to drive with caution through flooded water because the wash off from flooded roads is causing distress to residents of neighbouring properties.”
Staffordshire firefighters rescued a man whose car was trapped in 2ft of floodwater in Walton Lane, Barton Turn, at 4.30am yesterday.
A 70-strong team from Staffordshire County Council worked around the clock to keep the roads open amid ‘challenging conditions’.
Derbyshire Police advised motorists not to drive into floodwater as they ‘didn’t know how deep it was’.
Arriva Midlands said the conditions disrupted services including the 61, between Swadlincote and Melbourne; 7 and 7A, linking Burton, Alrewas and Lichfield; 813 connecting Tamworth and Burton and X38, linking Burton to Derby.
Spokesman Keith Myatt said: “At the moment we are taking things hour by hour, but some services may have to be cancelled if it gets any worse.”
East Midlands Trains said its Burton services were unaffected, but the Cross-Country service to Penzance, due to reach Burton at 3.38pm, was cancelled in Leeds.
Evacuation stations for those living by A38
PEOPLE living opposite Branston Water Park were told to evacuate their homes over the weekend as rainfall took its toll.
Jackie Morris, of Lichfield Road, Branston, said the problem was only getting worse as motorists on the A38 caused splash-back onto her driveway.
The dual carriageway was gridlocked yesterday morning, along with all other major roads into Burton, before it was closed in both directions by the Highways Agency on the instructions of the police.
Mrs Morris and her neighbours received an automated call at 3.30am on Sunday telling them to evacuate their homes as flood waters were rising.
She said: “We went outside to see but there was no water so we didn’t evacuate, but waters are rising and it is coming down my drive.
“We have tried calling the Environment Agency and the county council but haven’t been able to get through.
“Luckily my neighbour has some sandbags which we have been able to use but I am worried we will be flooded.
“The police have said it is not their responsibility.
“The same thing happened to us 12 years ago when we had about three or four feet of water.
“We have moved furniture just in case and are using buckets to try to get rid of the water.”
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