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Trees ripped up and power cut off during Storm Doris' rampage through Suffolk and Essex

PUBLISHED: 21:35 23 February 2017 | UPDATED: 21:35 23 February 2017

A fallen tree on St George's Street, Ipswich. Picture: Lhon Hawramy

A fallen tree on St George's Street, Ipswich. Picture: Lhon Hawramy

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Storm Doris descended on Suffolk yesterday causing disruption, damage and travel misery for thousands.

One of the most significant developments during the day was the closure of the Orwell Bridge due to the high speed winds brought by the storm.

This caused chaos around Ipswich as the diversion sent motorists through the town along already busy roads – while quieter streets became busier as those with a bit of local knowledge tried to beat the queues.

A similar situation occurred when winds closed the bridge in November, though more advanced warning this time may have kept some people off the roads.

The bridge did not reopen until 8.30pm, well after the evening rush hour had come and gone. Even the open parts of the A14 suffered long queues of slow moving traffic, while the northbound A12 towards Ipswich was at one stage backed up as far as East Bergholt.

Suffolk Constabulary took the step of advising drivers to avoid the roads entirely until Storm Doris had passed, particularly as trees began to come down across roads.

Its control room received hundreds of weather-related calls with chief inspector Matthew Rose saying yesterday: “There has been some structural damage in Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill that has been reported but the greatest volume of calls is of trees that have fallen down blocking roads.

“We are getting reports all over the county of trees down and are working with local authorities to reopen these roads.

“Thankfully there have been no reports of anyone injured.

“When we get the warning from the Met Office we work closely with highways, local authorities and the Met Office and we make sure we have extra staff available not just on duty but to answer calls in anticipation of it being busy.”

The A14, already cut in two by the bridge closure, was also shut near Trimley because a sign was blowing across the carriageways.

For those who thought catching the train might allow them a less trouble-free journey. they were unfortunately mistaken.

Services on the Great Eastern Main Line between London Liverpool Street and Norwich were disrupted in the morning by plastic sheeting which had blown onto overhead power lines at Witham.

Then as commuters tried to make their way home power issues between Needham Market and Norwich caused delays to mainline services again, while the strength of the wind caused disruption on Ipswich services travelling to and from Cambridge and Lowestoft.

Power issues also affected thousands of homes across Suffolk and Essex as the storm swept across the two counties.

Around 12,000 properties in Suffolk and a further 5,000 in Essex had no electricity around 6pm as UK Power Networks worked frantically to reconnect them.

The organisation had prepared for the worst Doris could bring by arranging to have extra staff on duty during the day, both in its call centres to answer customer queries and in its engineering teams.

Ahead of the worst of the disruption customer services director Matt Rudling said: “We are aware that Storm Doris is due to move across some areas of our network today and plans are place to respond quickly to situations as they arise.

“If the storm causes any damage our priorities are to get people reconnected as quickly and a safely as possible, keeping customers updated and looking after our most vulnerable customers.”

It is known that around 714 properties in Sudbury were affected, along with 1,311 in Halstead and 146 in Wickham Market.

Ipswich Borough Council decided the weather conditions were severe enough to shut the parks it manages as well as the town’s cemeteries.

They are expected to reopen this morning once the high winds have died down.

“We appreciate this will cause some inconvenience to some shoppers and potential visitors to the parks – but it is better to be safe than sorry,” a spokesman for the council said.

“We have been warned that Storm Doris could be potentially disruptive and want to ensure that people in Ipswich remain safe.”

The town’s market also shut early, at noon, to avoid the risk of stalls being damaged.

Despite the length and severity of Storm Doris it is not believed anyone sustained serious injuries during its peak as a result of it.

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