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Storm Desmond: 'Unprecedented' Response Marked, Two Years On

It's two years to the day that Storm Desmond wreaked havoc across parts of Cumbria and Lancashire - which affected a total of nearly local 70,000 properties.

Storm Desmond caused widespread damage and disruption - not to mention the loss of power to 55,000 people in Lancaster and Morecambe after floodwater breached flood defences which were installed to withstand a ‘once-in-100-year’ floods.

Up the road, and more than 13,000 homes and businesses in Cumbria were also badly hit. 7,465 Cumbrian properties were flooded, 3,034 children were unable to attend school, and almost 18,000 homes were left without electricity.

The impact on the county’s roads and bridges left some of the most indelible images of the floods, with the collapse of the historic Pooley Bridge and the catastrophic damage to the A591 through the centre of the Lake District.

Since the floods, more than 1,600 separate surveys and inspections of bridges, roads, culverts, slopes and retaining structures were undertaken. Across Cumbria, that work identified around 1,200 bridges, roads and other locations  where repair work was needed to make good the flood damage.

Of these, 784 were damaged or destroyed bridges, including some of the county’s most historically significant structures. To date 278 bridges have been repaired or rebuilt, 264 are in progress and 242 are scheduled to begin work in the coming months.

Below: Kendal, December 2015

Councillor Keith Little, Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Fleet, said: “Two years on we’re still in the thick of dealing with the impact of Storm Desmond, and we will be for at least another year.

"The work our teams have done, side by side with local contractors, has been incredible. It’s not just the scale and quality what’s been done on the ground that’s so impressive, the work behind the scenes to project manage such a large number of schemes, across a wide area and involving numerous local communities has required real skill.

“It’s particularly pleasing that local Cumbrian contractors have been successful in securing contracts, this has been about ensuring something positive comes out of what was a difficult and traumatic period for so many of our residents.

“I’d also like to thank the public for their patience, it’s been unavoidable that there has been a lot more work on the network and we know that can sometimes cause frustration. But it is necessary and we do make every effort to minimise any disruption.”

Below: Lancaster, December 2015 - before and after the massive power cut

South Lakes MP Tim Farron said: “Two years on, it is right that we take time to mark this anniversary of this traumatic event that hit thousands of us here, and to celebrate the strength our community as we pulled through it together.

“Two years after Storm Desmond and there still more than a hundred Cumbrian residents who haven’t been able to return to their homes.

“In addition, our local communities are understandably exasperated that not a single penny of the £25m, which was awarded back in 2015, has yet been spent on flood defences.

“However, the Environment Agency’s announcement last week that engineering work is set to start in the New Year is to be welcomed.

“I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who helped us put pressure on to accelerate work.

“I do understand how important it is to get this right and I know that local Environment Agency workers on the ground are working tirelessly to protect our area, they deserve our thanks – but there just aren’t enough of them.

“I will continue to put pressure on the government to get on with the job of giving our communities the flood protection they so desperately need to keep us safe in the future.”

Mr Farron's Early Day Motion was as follows: 

"That this House recognises that the flooding caused by Storm Desmond in December 2015 was the most extreme on record in the UK; stands in solidarity with the thousands of people who had their homes and businesses damaged by the storm and who are still struggling two years on from the storm; thanks emergency workers, volunteers and local communities for their work to help flood victims; congratulates the people of Cumbria and other affected areas for their strength and resilience in the face of such devastation, and for their relentless efforts to enable their communities to return to normal life; concerned by the lack of investment in flood defences and the pushing back of essential flood defence work; recognises that many people across Cumbria are still being affected by floods that are preventable; encourages the development of a new national flood relief and resilience scheme to better protect communities from future flooding; and further encourages the Government to ensure that the flood relief scheme for the River Kent is completed as soon as possible now that the Environment Agency has finalised plans."

Meanwhile, Flood Re, the Government and industry backed national flood reinsurance scheme, that launched last year, is continuing to help householders achieve affordable home insurance.

Flood Re is a world first scheme that was set up to increase the availability of affordable home insurance premiums and excess levels for householders in flood risk areas. It sits behind the policies that insurers issue which enables them to compete for business in areas of high flood risk. This means more insurance products and choice for people across the UK.

Storm Desmond broke the UK's 24-hour rainfall record, with over 340mm of rain falling on 5th December in Cumbria’s Honister Pass.

Andy Bord, Chief Executive of Flood Re, said: “It’s important to us that people across the UK understand how the scheme can help them more easily access affordable flood insurance. They should speak to their current insurer to see if it has signed up to Flood Re and shop around to ensure they are able to get the best possible deal.

“We’ve seen from Storm Desmond how flooding can cause destruction and distress and are proud that thousands of people have benefitted from the scheme since its launch in April 2016.”

Below: ENW's local substations

Meanwhile, since the disaster, Electricity North West has invested £270m in strengthening the power network which will benefit more than five million customers all the way from rural Cumbria, down through Lancashire to urban Manchester.

£14m of that has been spent on upgrading and replacing overhead power lines and a further £14m on upgrading underground electricity cables.

The financial boost also includes a further £5.4m investment to help protect key substations - like the one on Lancaster's Caton Road. The extra defences, include raising key equipment over 10ft high, new flood doors and CCTV systems to monitor any weather-related issues.

This year alone the region has been impacted by ex-hurricane Ophelia and Storms Aileen and Brian and last week heavy rain caused flash floods in Lancashire and the Fylde Coast. The investment and extra flood defences helped protect the network and cause minimal impact or damage.

Martin Deehan, operations director for Electricity North West, said: “It is our responsibility to keep the power on for everyone across the North West which is why we’re proud of the work and our investment in the network since Storm Desmond hit our region two years ago.

“We’ve already experienced some severe weather this year and I’m delighted to say that the network has coped well which is great reassurance to our customers as we head into winter.

“Whether it is charging your mobile or streaming your favourite TV series, we all take electricity for granted every day and its essential that we continue to make that happen.”

A new report released earlier this month shows that Electricity North West has delivered the highest ever reliability levels over the past year and since Storm Desmond almost 325,000 people have joined the Priority Services Register to get extra support if they need it.

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said: “I am pleased that Electricity North West has invested substantially in the electricity supply in our area in the two years post Storm Desmond.

“The power outages we saw caused huge issues for many people and it was right that Electricity North West have invested heavily to prevent outages on that scale in the future.

“If you know of a friend or relative who is vulnerable please make sure you sign them up the priority services register, this means that they will receive extra support should there be an outage in the future.”

Since Storm Desmond a new national number, 105, was launched to help customers easily contact their network power operator to report or get up-to-date information about power cuts, as well as report damage to power lines and substations. More than 120,000 people across the North West have used the new number since it launched in September last year.

If customers experience a power cut they can call the free national number 105 or 0800 195 4141 or watch the video below for further advice.


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