The heavy rainfall of the last few weeks has meant several areas of the country have endured significant flooding. One town that could now face the same disaster is Shropshire’s Ironbridge, with water levels so high, they could overtop the structure’s flood barriers.
Telford and Wrekin Council and West Mercia Police have warned residents to evacuate their homes and businesses, as the River Severn is likely to breach defences, as water levels reach an all-time high near to the historic bridge.
The Mail Online reported recently how the Severn at Montford was seven metres by 14:00.
Local Environment Agency (EA) manager Dave Throup was reported as saying: “The UK’s longest river is absolutely heaving. From Newtown in Wales to Gloucester, the whole length of the Severn is on flood warning.”
He noted there are “significant problems in Shrewsbury” as a result, and many schools, businesses and shops have been closed, while more than 40 homes were evacuated.
Chief superintendent Tom Harding from West Mercia Police predicted river levels in Ironbridge, home to the first cast iron bridge in the world, could rise to “unprecedented levels”, and they may even pour over the top of the flood defences that have been put in place as a precaution.
“We are working very closely with our emergency response partners to ensure plans are in place should the water overtop the barrier however at the moment we don’t know what impact that will have but my warning is we may be in a position where we can’t rescue residents who don’t leave their home,” he stated.
The EA has issued more than 300 alerts across England due to the flood risk, including two severe ‘danger to life’ warnings for Shrewsbury and Ironbridge.
Its concern about flooding was justified, as defences in Bewdley, Worcestershire, gave way to the River Severn earlier this morning.
The Met Office has warned residents there will be more rain today, which could mean other flood barriers across the region could buckle if water levels continue to rise.
As well as causing danger to local residents and damage to their properties, this volume of rainwater could also further deteriorate the historic structure in Ironbridge.
Having been erected as long ago as 1779, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. At over 300 years old, it has become vulnerable over time, and English Heritage opened a crowdfunding page in 2017 to raise finance to help maintain the landmark.
Corrosion control solutions are likely to be needed on the cast iron structure, with its iron radials and braces having to be replaced, as well as the main iron arch, deck plates and wedges. This is due to corrosion having weakened its strength, particularly due to heavy rainfall.
The historic bridge also requires a repaint, while the road needs to be restructured to protect it from the weather.
Therefore, this recent bout of rain – with more than 200 per cent of the average rainfall for February in England having fallen over the last month – is only likely to have caused the iron bridge more damage.