Stansted flood wardens standing by for second time in 48 hours as Met Office issues amber warning for heavy snow
Volunteers are on standby in Stansted as the village braces itself for a repeat on Saturday (Jan 16) of Thursday's low-level flooding.
The Met Office has issued an amber warning for the region from 5am to 2pm on Saturday as a band of heavy snow moving eastwards is likely to bring disruption.
Teams of parish council volunteers are on call to keep a close eye on the village's water levels, especially as any snow will fall on saturated ground following more than an inch of rain overnight from Wednesday into Thursday.
Stansted Brook at Gypsy Lane reached a high of 60cm (2ft) on Thursday afternoon – its usual range is between 6cm and 70cm, and the typical level over the past 12 months has been between zero and 15cm.
It is forecast to peak at 55cm at 4.45pm on Saturday. The highest level ever recorded is 87cm in October 2001.
At 4.05am on Thursday, the village's flood warning system kicked in and alerted volunteer warden Iain Rankin that levels were rising.
He and wife Sheila immediately ventured out into the dark to check the various flash points – the culvert opposite the Dog and Duck pub in Lower Street and Ugley Brook close to the railway station.
"We checked that nothing was blocked and that the water was flowing through and to make sure it stayed clear," he said. "We informed the parish council at 8am that it needed monitoring all day and they've managed to get a group together to cover through to the afternoon. They were monitoring it non-stop, pulling debris out and making sure the water flowed freely.
"It's going to be fine, we just need to keep monitoring it during the day. It's not quite up to previous flooding levels. It measured 72cm in height at the Lower Street culvert and it can take up to 1m of water. The road's flooded further up in Gall End, but that doesn't damage any houses at that point.
"It would have to go another 30-40cm higher at the culvert and then we'd have a couple of hours before we'd have a major problem."
Stansted Parish Council chair Cllr Maureen Caton was among the first to patrol the village's waterways on Thursday morning and said plans were in place to monitor the situation over the weekend. Volunteers will work in shifts from 6.30am on Saturday to track water levels.
"I walked the route of the watercourse out of Lower Street up to Walpole Meadows and it's pretty bad out there," said Mrs Caton. "It was treacherous in some bits, with water coming off the fields onto the footpaths.
"I think we've got away with it [flooding] today, but I don't know about Saturday. We'll ensure all the screens are kept clear."
Mr Rankin said that work to upgrade and remodel the culvert near the station appeared to be working. "The new culvert extension has helped. It was half full and due to the remodelling was nowhere near the top of where it would previously have been. It certainly seems to have helped water exiting the brook here."
He also spent part of the morning taking photos to use as evidence for the village's bid to create natural flood defence areas. The village is keen to seek funding for the measures from the Environment Agency.
The last time Lower Street flooded was in February 2014 when torrential downpours left homes and businesses along the street under feet of water.
In the event that the watercourses cannot take any more and start to spill over into the streets, Mrs Caton said the council would instigate road closures and had sandbags at the ready for residents.
"I am the one who will be responsible for closing the road and diverting traffic away from Lower Street. From experience of the last time, people were driving down Chapel Hill and into Lower Street and swishing the water everywhere, making it a lot worse.
"We'll be ready with our high-vis jackets and road closure signs and can give out sandbags to residents or anybody who feels they're going to need them. They can get in touch with the council and we'll supply them."