Bedfordshire residents urged to leave homes ahead of Storm Bella

Emma Bowden, PA
·4-min read

Residents living in parts of Bedfordshire have been urged to leave their homes due to a risk of flooding as large swathes of the UK brace for Storm Bella.

A period of heavy rain has brought widespread flooding around around the country, with people rescued from vehicles and others evacuated from their homes.

The arrival of Storm Bella on Boxing Day will bring further downpours and winds of up to 60-70mph in exposed coastal locations, according to the Met Office.

WEATHER Rain
(PA Graphics)

It follows relatively calm and cold conditions across the UK on Christmas Day, which saw early morning snowfall recorded in some areas – with the weather service declaring it a White Christmas.

Reports of snow had come in from Leconfield in Humberside and Wattisham in Suffolk as of 5am on Friday morning, while parts of Greater Manchester saw snow during the afternoon.

An amber wind warning, which warns travel could be disrupted, has been issued for parts of south Wales and across southern England on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a yellow warning of wind for the whole of England and Wales as well as the far south of Scotland has also been issued and will be in force from 3pm on Boxing Day.

A family take advantage of the Christmas Day snow with a trip out sledging on the hills
Snow on the hills near Hexham, Northumberland, on Christmas Day (Owen Humphreys/PA)

In addition to the strong winds, the Met Office said a period of heavy rain will affect western and southern areas.

A yellow warning for rain has been issued for parts of Scotland, Wales and much of north and south west England on Saturday, including areas where there has already been flooding from recent downpours.

Bedfordshire Police “strongly urged” residents living near the River Great Ouse in north Bedfordshire to seek alternative accommodation due to fears of flooding on Friday night.

On Christmas Day, Superintendent Steve Ashdown, who is leading the response, said officers had visited just over 1,300 homes in the area the previous evening.

“The river is currently at heightened levels and we’re predicting a significant flooding event by 8pm this evening,” he said in a video on Twitter.

“If you received one of those notices last night, you are in one of those properties that are most at risk from this flood. We would encourage you to leave if it is safe for you to do so, as soon as you are able to do so.

“Appreciate the timing of this at Christmas Day is not great, but the risk to you and your family and wellbeing is significant.”

He asked residents able to leave their homes to do so in a “Covid-safe way” if possible, recommending they go to one single location and stay there until it is safe to return in the coming days.

On Thursday, the Environment Agency issued two severe flood warnings for the River Nene in Northamptonshire, indicating a risk to life.

Across England, a total of 85 flood warnings and 110 flood alerts, as well as the two severe flood warnings, remained in force at 4pm on Christmas Day as huge amounts of water flowed through river catchments.

Northamptonshire Police continued to urge people to stay away from the Billing Aquadrome holiday park, after hundreds were evacuated on Christmas Eve due to high water levels on the River Nene.

The force said on Twitter that water levels had reached 5ft in some places, with emergency services using boats to take residents in the worst-hit areas to safety.

Most of those evacuated were able to find overnight accommodation with friends and family, with a special exemption from Covid-19 restrictions, while about 100 people were transferred to a hotel.

Detective Superintendent Jamie Piscopo said: “Emergency services are working hard to ensure residents can return to the site as soon as possible, however it is not currently safe to do so.

“We’d urge them to stay away until such time it is safe to do.”

A major incident was declared by Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service on Thursday evening – with five crews and four specialist water teams searching 1,100 caravans – but this was stood down on Friday.

The force previously responded to 250 incidents following heavy rain, deploying crews to pump out properties and stranded vehicles.