Events across Lancashire could be disrupted again this weekend as the county braces itself for yet more stormy conditions.
Hot on the heels of Storm Ciara, Storm Dennis is set to hit in the run up to the weekend and the half-term holidays, bringing widespread strong winds and heavy rain.
Although conditions are not expected to be as severe as with Storm Ciara, a ‘National Severe Weather Warning’ for wind has been issued for much of England and Wales, with further warnings are likely to be issued in the coming days.
Officials are now carrying out health and safety assessments and preparing for last-minute checks for events including an inaugural Junior Parkrun in Worden Park, Leyland, football matches and Chinese cultural celebrations on and around Preston’s Flag Market.
Extra staff at the region’s power network have been put on standby to deal with any outages caused, and Lancashire County Council’s highways team are on alert to deal with road problems caused by the weather, including downed trees, debris blocking drains and traffic diversions.
County Councillor Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "Our highways teams have been very busy this week carrying out repairs and assessing the damage caused by Storm Ciara, and there are a number of issues which we will be monitoring very closely as we deal with any impacts from Storm Dennis.
"We're paying close attention to the forecasts and weather warnings as Storm Dennis approaches, and will be well-prepared again to deal with any incidents affecting the roads, with all our highway resources available to respond if necessary.
"Our highways and emergency planning teams did a fantastic job during Storm Ciara, with some staff working very long hours from midnight on Saturday through to Sunday afternoon to coordinate the emergency response, clear fallen trees and deal with flooding issues. Our highways teams have remained busy this week due to the wintry showers and freezing temperatures, with the need for night time gritting patrols in many areas.
"We are keeping a watching brief for the moment but will be ready to do whatever is needed to keep the roads moving, and work alongside the emergency services and our communities to mitigate any impacts as a result of Storm Dennis."
Although currently the Environment Agency has not issued a flood warning for the central Lancashire area this weekend, experts predict rainfall on already-saturated ground could cause a risk of further flooding.
Steve Ramsdale, chief meteorologist at the Met Office said: “Another spell of very wet and windy weather is expected for Saturday, although Storm Dennis is currently not expected to be as severe as Ciara disruption is still likely.”
Over the weekend wind gusts will widely reach in excess of 50mph, even across some inland areas, with gusts of over 60mph possible over hills, coastal areas and exposed locations.”
The Met Office has also said Storm Dennis is expected to bring a range of impacts, including delays and cancellations to transport services, damage to power supplies and large coastal waves.
Martin Deehan, operations director North for Electricity North West, said: “We’re keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts to see what Storm Dennis might bring.
“We know though, that we’re expecting quite a bit of rain - 20-30mm across our patch - and that will increase the risk of flooding to our substations, although with Ciara we didn’t do too badly, because we’ve spent a lot of money on storm defences since Storm Desmond in 2015.”
He added: “We also know that the direction of winds will be south and south-westerly. They are the prevailing winds we’re used to in the North West, and the trees are pretty hardened to it.
“But we do spend all year cutting trees around lines and we have additional staff ready to respond.
“We have 24/7 cover 365 days a year cover, and it’s a dynamic set-up. So if we get closer to the weekend and the forecast deteriorates, then we will increase the cover we have on call. We try to be as flexible as we can.”
A large number of train services were affected on Sunday as a result of Storm Ciara, with most train operators affected. Avanti, which runs the West Coast trainline, cancelled trains north of Preston due to flooding.
However, yesterday they said: “We plan to run a normal timetable this weekend.”
Northern Rail did not respond.
Meanwhile, South Ribble Council said decisions on sports pitches at the weekend will be taken nearer to the time, but the inaugural Junior Parkrun in Worden Park is still set to go ahead on Sunday at 9am.
A spokesman said: “Part of the route requires repair which the council expect to complete this week but we have a B route planned if not. The route is on paths apart from the finish funnel which is on grass.”
Preston Council did not respond to a request for information about whether any of its sports pitches, events planned in its parks or Chinese cultural celebrations in and around the Harris Museum and Flag Market would be affected.
Lancashire Wildlife Trust, which runs Brockholes Nature Reserve and several others across the county, said all of its reserves had been damaged by Storm Ciara, and advised visitors to wear suitable clothing if they intend on visiting.
A spokesman for the Trust said: “It’s really just a case of waiting to see how much of a menace Dennis is going to be.
“We are still in the process of cleaning up some of the mess left by Ciara, and while the reserve (Brockholes) is open. the Visitor Village is closed for the time being. One or two of the paths are inaccessible and closed for safety reasons.
“If anyone wants to visit, we suggest wellies and bad weather clothing, and insist that they take notice of the information signs. We will still have many wildlife enthusiasts turning up whatever the weather.”
He added: “The floating Visitor Village is amazing and, during the heaviest storms over the weekend, it rose with the water levels. That floating design has saved us thousands of pounds avoiding damage and clean-up costs.
“The lakes at Brockholes fill up because they are an excellent flood defence when the River Ribble reaches difficult levels, so it is also protecting local homes. These very rare extremes are one of the reasons it was designed this way.
“Unfortunately, paths and bridges to the Visitor Village were flooded. If anyone wants to visit Brockholes or is booked onto events they should visit the website www.brockholes.org or give us a call. We are hoping that our half-term events are not affected but it is better to check before heading to the reserve. We will tell people when it is business as usual again.
“On all of our reserves we have lost some trees, which is natural clearance. We would recommend anyone walking on our reserves or in woodland across the region to be careful particularly in windy conditions. They should take notice of warning signs both written - and natural.
“Wildlife will hunker down in the storms and come out of havens to dry out and feed. It is a really important time to make sure bird tables are stocked up now and in the coming weeks as the breeding and nesting seasons begin.”
PANEL: Flooding prevention
Croston’s £7m flood defence scheme has been hailed a saviour in the wake of Storm Ciara.
The scheme includes an upstream flood storage area on the River Yarrow and 600m earth embankment which is capable of retaining up to 1.3 million cubic metres of water - equivalent to 520 Olympic size swimming pools.
However, a call has been made for urgent multi-agency talks to take place after the village suffered a number of flooding problems at the weekend.
While the scheme has been widely praised, its setting level has been questioned, and concerns remain about further flooding in Croston due to other issues.
Kath Almond, chairman of the Lower Yarrow Flood Action Group (LYFAG), said; “The flood barrier is working, but we are still being flooded, and where the flooding is coming from, whether the barrier is set at the wrong level, we don’t know. But now we need to look at all the culverts into the river beyond the dam.”
She said the village becomes cut off when flooding occurs.
In Garstang, flood gates on the River Wyre failed to operate as Storm Ciara raged on Sunday.
A major clean up operation has been taking place after Garstang Sports and Social Club flooded for the third time in seven years.
Club Trustee Charlie Collinson questioned whether the devastation could have been avoided if the defences had been in good repair.
The Environment Agency has now pledged to repair the broken flood gate in the spring and says “stop logs” will be installed immediately as a temporary protection measure.
The Environment Agency is also working towards finalising a new scheme to protect areas of Preston and South Ribble.
In October it said it was looking at the possibility of creating a new glass-panelled flood wall in the Broadgate area, as part of a £45m scheme to round 4,000 residential properties and more than 300 businesses currently at flood risk from Preston Riversway up towards the M6 motorway and Higher Walton.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: “Work on the project is progressing to schedule and the next community consultation events are likely to take place in late summer/early autumn this year, when further information will be available for local people to view.
“Details of these events will be circulated and published in advance and will be detailed on the www.theFloodHub.co.uk/psr”
Glass panels have been used in flood defences in Northwich and Keswick.
Visitors to drop-in sessions running in Preston and South Ribble raised concerns that proposed new, higher flood defences could block views of the river.
Construction of the flood defences is expected to begin in 2022 and complete by 2023/24.
PANEL: Where to get help
• Power cuts: You can view any live power cut information in the region on Electricity North West’s website, get in touch on Twitter or Facebook, or by calling for free on 105 from any phone.
Electricity North West offers extra support to customers through their Priority Services Register. For more information and to register visit www.enwl.co.uk/priority .
• Flooding: With further heavy rain expected to continue into the weekend as a result of Storm Dennis, the Environment Agency is advising communities to remain vigilant and stay safe over the coming days.
People are advised to Sign up for flood warnings and keep up to date with the latest safety advice. Call Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or follow @EnvAgencyNW on Twitter for the latest flood updates.
• Road problems: People should report any urgent problems on the roads caused by the storm which do not require an emergency response to local police by calling 101, so they can pass any issues onto highway teams as necessary.