FENS AREA: Town breathes a collective sigh of relief as flood risk subsides - but it was a close run thing

Spectators on Freedom  Wisbech watching the swollen river. Spectators on Freedom Wisbech watching the swollen river.

Thursday, December 5, 2013
10:17 PM

Wisbech breathed a huge collective sigh of relief tonight as the threat of flooding receded – but it was a close run thing.

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South Brink Wisbech, Water flooding onto road from river.South Brink Wisbech, Water flooding onto road from river.

From high tide just before 7.30pm hundreds watched anxiously as the waters of the Nene came within inches of breaching the flood defences.

With their mobile phones in one hand, and their fingers crossed in the other, the crowd watched, waited and then finally felt they could return home safe in the knowledge the town was safe.

“It was a heart stopping time,” said Wisbech councillor Dave Patrick who watched the tide rising close by the Nene and from the vantage point of the port.

“The water came within inches of spilling over but happily, and thank goodness, it started to fall back,” he said.

South Brink Wisbech, Water flooding onto road from river.South Brink Wisbech, Water flooding onto road from river.

Another councillor Virginia Bucknor also took stock of the night’s events, remarking that the pontoons and yachts “were breached in eye line with pedestrians at same height but the water began receding.”

Police, fire, search and rescue and other officials watched and waited, keeping part of the waterfront cordoned off to deter sight seers.

Traffic, too, got snarled up on Freedom Bridge, mainly because many drivers slowed down to gape at the huge crowd gathered to see the waters rise.

In North End Road there was a moment of tense drama as water poured across the road from flood gates and many residents who had come out from their homes to watch wondered why the road had not been closed.

North End Wisbech, Water flooding onto road through the flood gates due to hign river.North End Wisbech, Water flooding onto road through the flood gates due to hign river.

“There’s lorries, cars and buses all gridlocked along the road and with water pouring across the road you’d have thought it would have been closed off,” said one.

But as quickly as the danger came, it went.

Town mayor Samantha Hoy was delighted Wisbech could sleep easy but was concerned about high tide again on Friday morning.

“I hope everything is ok then,” she said.

Sandbags had been put out throughout the day along properties in South Brink but the waters never threatened, testament perhaps to the extensive flood defence regime imposed on the town in recent years.

In 2010 engineers completed a massive £12m project to protect the 10,500 residents and 1,200 businesses of Wisbech.

It was necessary, said officials from the Environment Agency, to invest to protect Wisbech from the 1 in 200 year chance of the town being threatened.

Tonight Wisbech came within a hair’s breadth of danger but, for now at least, that danger is past.

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