Storm Babet was the worst storm to hit Suffolk in generations.

In just 24 hours, it brought chaos and fear to many in our towns and villages, leaving in its wake a trail of destruction in people’s homes and businesses, in our schools and on our roads.

The events of Friday 20th October 2023 will live long in people’s memories.  

And yet - as we see time and time again when we face adversity in our county - Storm Babet also brought out the very best in people.

I am bowled over by the stories of good will, kindness and ordinary people doing extraordinary things in this time of need.

People rallied day and night, especially in those harder hit areas such as Debenham, Framlingham, and other villages near-by, to help one another.

Tractor drivers rescued children, some as young as four from primary schools, and drove them safely back to the arms of their worried parents.

Staff at local leisure centres stepped up and became emergency rest centres for those stranded or left without homes. Residents showed up with blankets and beddings or offered spare rooms and hot drinks to those in need.

Strangers helped strangers to tow their cars or rescue elderly neighbours in homemade boats. People led livestock and horses to dry land and stables.

The stories are many and humbling. It is to these people that I pass my greatest thanks. What outstanding community spirit.

I also offer thanks to the blue light services, highways and council staff for their hard work in such difficult circumstances.

Such was the demand on services that the Suffolk Resilience Forum, made up of emergency services, councils and health bodies, declared a major incident on Friday afternoon.

As we saw in Covid, Suffolk’s partnership response is exceptional. It was advised that people only travelled if absolutely necessary.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue attended over 600 calls out – usually it’s 10 to 20 a day. Likewise, highways staff attended 82 callouts to assist with pumping water from flooded roads, closing roads or clearing debris.

I’m told we pumped 2.5 million litres of water away from the highway - equivalent to 35 Olympic swimming pools. That work continues today.

There is, of course, a lot more to do over coming weeks and months to support those who have been badly impacted.

Visiting those hardest hit areas, it is hard to see flooded households ripping up carpets and salvaging belongings.

However, I am confident that Suffolk’s community spirit and commitment will get us through.

The coming weeks will also see questions asked of the way Storm Babet was anticipated and whether anything could have done to lessen the impact.

An investigation will take place in due course, and work with Suffolk partners, including the Environment Agency, will be ongoing.

It is fair to say that the devastation caused by Storm Babet has shocked many.

The Met Office had issued a fairly typical yellow weather warning for rain in Suffolk (the next warning being amber and then red, as was seen in Scotland and the north east).

However, the amount of rain was more than the Met Office forecast.

More than 75mm of rain fell on some areas of the county from Thursday night into Friday, which has less than a 1% chance of happening each year.  

This is more than a month’s worth of average October rainfall for Suffolk in just 24 hours.

There are still a number of flood warnings in place across Suffolk, and more rain forecast, so please remain cautious, especially while driving.

You can get flood alerts on the Environment Agency webpage.

There is also lots of support available for people and businesses that have been impacted by flooding.

While much of the recovery work will be handled locally by your district and borough council, there are a number of helpful numbers on our website at Flood Recovery information for Suffolk - Suffolk County Council. 

If your property has been flooded we are asking that you report it here

I’d like to close this column by reiterating my thanks to all those who rallied round when Suffolk was in peril.

For those facing an uncertain future with flooded home and businesses, having the support of your friends and neighbours is invaluable. We really do live in a remarkable county.  Thank you.