Storm Dennis – council chief executive’s update on the impact on Shropshire

Storm Dennis – council chief executive’s update on the impact on Shropshire

Clive Wright, chief executive of Shropshire Council, has emailed council members and the county’s MPs to describe the impact of Storm Dennis on the unitary area. I thought it would be useful to publish this more widely as a factual account of the explosive cyclogenesis that hit our county and many other areas.

The current estimate is that 95 homes have been flooded across the county and at least 28 businesses. The count for Ludlow is 37 homes and three businesses.

From front: Peter Nutting, Tim Gill and Clive Wright

Flood relief funding is available for businesses and homes. I’ll clarify some of the details next week. Meanwhile, everyone affected by the floods should register with Shropshire Council as soon as they can. 0345 678 9006 during the usual business hours.

The letter from Clive says that sandbag distribution policy to Ludlow will change. Last Sunday, the A49 was closed and no one could get sandbags from the highway depot in Craven Arms. In future we will have them available in Ludlow before storm events.

Email from Clive Wright, chief executive Shropshire Council

Dear Member

I thought you might appreciate an overview of what has been going on over the last 6 days.

As you know, Storm Dennis hit us on Saturday and gathered momentum into Sunday. By Sunday afternoon an emergency-situation had been declared in Ludlow and so our priority had to be preserving life and protecting key infrastructure. A multi-agency TCG (Tactical Coordinating Group) was established by the Police. We mobilised in Ludlow very quickly, identifying vulnerable residents and getting our Highways Teams on the ground. There were hundreds of calls from locations all over Shropshire and we prioritised and responded to as many as possible.

An early lesson was that we had to change our policy on providing sandbags. By Monday we had done this, and we have been delivering sandbags to flood locations since, though it is doubtful that we would have had capacity to do this on Sunday in Ludlow, given the level of demand widespread across the County. We are changing how we distribute sandbags in Ludlow in the future.

Since Monday the Council has stood up our Senior Team, along with appropriate colleagues, to form our Emergency Team, meeting twice per day to deal with the issues. We have also participated twice daily in Shropshire multi agency meetings, daily dial in SCG (Strategic Coordination Group) meetings across West Mercia and in addition, we are chairing a Local Authority Recovery Group across West Mercia. In all it has been a fantastic effort involving around 200 people on the ground every day. This is clearly the largest scale emergency handled within the County in living memory.

The flooding happened in the following sequence: Ludlow and localised flooding in isolated rural communities; followed by Shrewsbury; followed by Bridgnorth. This has meant handling an emergency in multiple locations over several days, working with our partners.

The Council has been quick to respond at the time of flooding. Clean-up has happened as soon as water has receded. For example, the Teme flash flooded in Ludlow on Sunday and we were on site as it happened and maintained our presence. The Leader and I were in Ludlow on Tuesday, along with the Mayor of the Town Council. The majority of the clean-up was achieved in 48 hours – not weeks as predicted. We do understand that the recovery overall will take much longer for those impacted and their communities. We are supporting this with skips, assistance with clearance, visits, help with grants and other support as requested and established by meeting those impacted face to face. Whilst we were cleaning up in Ludlow we were also preparing for flooding in Shrewsbury.

The Severn peaked in Shrewsbury on Monday evening. In similar style to our work in Ludlow, the clean-up, including significant highway repair, in Shrewsbury was completed near the Welsh Bridge on Wednesday. Clean up near the English Bridge was initiated on Thursday morning starting within minutes of the water level allowing. We are now engaging and working with the businesses impacted around Coleham.

On Tuesday we were preparing in Bridgnorth, contacting property owners, working with the Town Council and the Red Cross, closing roads and opening rest centres. The Severn peaked overnight in the early hours of Wednesday. We started clean-up on Thursday and expect this to be mostly completed on Friday.

So far this is the estimated impact:

In total we have had 193 properties reported as flooded with the vast majority being residential – exact split not established as yet, but is about 90% residential.

Information regarding evacuations from Fire Service are as follows:-

  • Family of 5 rescued from a recovery vehicle.
  • 4 people rescued from a dentist surgery in Shrewsbury.
  • 4 people rescued from various vehicles.
  • 2 people rescued from properties.

There are multiple communities impacted by localised flooding. We are also assisting these communities.

The Council is providing sandbags, skips, vehicles and help to load debris. We are following up everyone who called us during the emergency. We are visiting, meeting people and offering support in all locations. We have been quick to launch assistance with access to funding provided by the Government. We have community teams and business support teams on the ground.

During all of this we have communicated consistently. The Leader has spoken on the radio. The Chief Executive of the Council has featured on Shropshire Radio at key times, usually 7.00am and 7.00pm every day, other staff have also featured. We have been interviewed several times on national and regional TV and have been featured regularly in print news media. To date we have released over 40 news stories and updates on the Council’s Newsroom, which has been visited over 100,000 times since Sunday. Our main website, which had regular updates of generic support information and a dedicated Storm Dennis webpage, has been visited over 115,000 times since Sunday, with over 300,000-page views and 85,000 unique visitors. Furthermore, our use of Social Media has seen over 200 posts (around 34 a day) with a reach of close to 10 million – almost solely on storm, flood or support campaigns. In addition, over 1,000 leaflets (detailing financial support) have, and will continue to be, distributed to residents and businesses whose properties have been affected by the flood. Residents and business can also download the leaflet on our dedicated Storm Dennis webpage.

On top of their usual day to day business, since Monday 17 February, our Customer Service Team have also received 1,010 Flood and highway reports from a total of 5,314 calls. The Customer Service Team have also received 104 phone requests so far for information about financial support as a result of flooding. The team has also handled 920 emails and 76 customer webchats this week and have cleared just under 100 urgent MP and Member’s Highways enquiries, answering or escalating the issues raised. Customer Services are also fitting in outbound contacts to flood victims who have filed reports with them to check on welfare and inform them of the financial support available with 22 contacted today.

The Cabinet of the Council was convened on Thursday 20th February. Items will be placed on the agenda of the Council meeting scheduled for 27 February 2020 and the Cabinet meeting to be held 4 March. A Members’ workshop will be held immediately after the Council meeting on 27 February.

I hope this keeps you informed and assures you of our best efforts.

I am very proud of our performance, our staff, our partners and Kier our highways contractor. It has been a great example of working together and getting the job done.

Best wishes

Clive Wright
Chief Executive
Shropshire Council

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