Floodgates review after storm

EMERGENCY officers are today reviewing when Felixstowe's floodgates should be closed after they were left open during higher-than-expected tides.Officers at Suffolk Coastal say they want to make sure the resort's low-lying seafront is safe from the waves – and avoid all possibility of flooding.

EMERGENCY officers are today reviewing when Felixstowe's floodgates should be closed after they were left open during higher-than-expected tides.

Officers at Suffolk Coastal say they want to make sure the resort's low-lying seafront is safe from the waves – and avoid all possibility of flooding.

Eight of the 31 gates between the Town Hall and Manor Club were left open as high tides whipped up by winds and coupled with an unpredicted surge saw the sea damage the prom, smash beach huts and flood gardens.

Council officials were concerned they had not been given enough information and had only been put on Flood Watch when the tide rose to Flood Warning height on parts of the coast, by which time it was too late to take action.

"In view of the inaccuracy of the Environment Agency's (EA) prediction, the council is reviewing its procedures for responding to warnings," said a Suffolk Coastal spokesman.

"This includes the possibility of lowering the level at which it closes the gates so as to provide an even greater factor of safety in future, of having such decisions confirmed by a senior officer, and possible on-site monitoring of the situation.

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"We currently try to balance keeping the promenade open and accessible to residents and visitors alike, while relying on EA advice and information on when to close them."

The floodgates left open allow access onto the promenade for the public, as well as emergency vehicles or for maintenance.

The council said the normal expected high tide level on Monday morning had been 1.52 metres, the predicted surge was 0.86m, giving a combined effect high tide prediction of 2.38m.

The tide alert level for Felixstowe is 2.6m, providing a factor of safety that takes into account storm wave conditions.

"The forecast was a north westerly, offshore, wind, resulting in a risk appraisal which did not give cause for concern," said the spokesman.

"In the event the surge was recorded at 1.32m resulting in a high tide of 2.7m. This combined with a big north easterly swell in the order of two metres, resulted in damage to a small section of promenade and beach huts on the seaward side of the flood wall.

"The still water height was still within the safety margins, but a small quantity of water washing across the promenade made its way through two of the open flood gates."

David Kemp, Environment Agency team leader for flood warning, based at Ipswich, insisted that while the tide was higher than anticipated, the Flood Watch warnings given were correct.

"I am happy that for the coast from Felixstowe to Lowestoft we issued the correct warnings at the correct times," said Mr Kemp.

"We are forecasting to some extent and things do change very quickly. Sometimes we issue a warning and it doesn't make it and people say we are crying wolf. Consequently the effects of not warning and the tide being higher doesn't bear thinking about. There was a bigger surge than expected but we did provide the warning service we like to give."

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