SIX months worth of rain has fallen on Hampshire in just two months – and those battling to keep their heads above water are being warned that yet more misery is to come.
With another 2in (50mm) of rainfall expected before the weekend and the River Itchen expected to burst its banks at Cheriton today, those living in flood-hit areas are preparing for the worst.
The military sprang into action in Winchester last night, building flood defences. A Winchester City Council spokesman confirmed that troops were in Water Lane building a sandbag wall to protect already-flooded properties.
They arrived at about 11pm and were expected to be on site for a few hours shoring up sandbags already in place around the edge of the River Itchen. It follows repeated calls across the country for military intervention, with action already taken in Surrey and Somerset.
Around Hampshire, with homes disappearing under water and businesses being crippled, the strength of community spirit has been keeping people afloat.
Hampshire County Council leader Cllr Roy Perry has praised the resilience of those faced with such adversity as “heart-warming”, and those on the frontline have been astonished by the generosity of others.
Villagers in Twyford, near Winchester, are just one example of how a community has come together to make what could have been a disastrous situation more bearable.
With the launch of Barrier Watch, houses at risk of flooding in Hazeley Road have suffered minimal damage from the river of water flooding down from the hills, managing to restrict the water to their gardens and cellars.
Residents closed the road on Sunday morning but with many motorists deciding to ignore the barriers and drive through anyway, the decision was taken to set up a rota of volunteers to man the barrier, to ensure that damage caused by bow waves was kept to a minimum.
So far more than 30 people have signed up to the rota, but with the rain set to continue, more volunteers are needed.
Parish council chairman Cllr Waine Lawton, said: “The volunteers have just been superb. It if wasn’t for their hard work we would be facing really serious problems right now. Our biggest concern is that once things start to die down, people will think the dangers are over, but we cannot take our foot off the pedal until we are absolutely sure all the water has gone.”
As well as assisting with pumps, villagers are also helping by reducing the level of their waste water, using washing machines less and going to the toilet as much as possible while on trips out of the village to help cut the risks caused by sewage flowing through the flooded street.
Angela Forder-Stent, a volunteer for Twyford Parish Council, said: “The repeat message is ‘please keep waste water to a minimum’.
“This situation is not going to resolve quickly so we will continue to need volunteers for the rota manning the barriers until the water subsides.
“This whole situation is made so much easier by the marvellous response of the community.”
Villagers in Cheriton were today bracing themselves for the worst as warnings came last night that the River Itchen will breach at some point today.
Residents have quickly stepped into action, placing sandbags along School Lane to divert flood water and using pumps to remove water from French drains around their properties.
A smaller w a t e r w a y linked to the river has already burst its banks, by the garage and post office in Cheriton, and some residents have boarded the bottoms of their front doors and used sandbags to try to keep the water out.
One School Lane resident, Pat Lawrence, has been hailed a local hero for his tireless efforts to keep the village in working order, while Cllr Harry Verny has advised locals to avoid flushing their toilets to save the extra gallons of water being pumped through the already strained systems.
The floods also caused worsening problems on the roads, with the A272 closed at Bramdean, and many other closures taking place.
In Winchester some of the 35,000 sandbags currently deployed in Hampshire have been put around the river’s edge in a desperate attempt to slow the water flowing further on to Water Lane.
Charlotte Fisher, 37, of Durngate Terrace, said: “It’s under the floorboards.
It’s rising and there’s not far to go before our back garden [which backs onto the river] is under.”
As the county continues to feel the full force of the wettest January for more than 200 years, with a further month’s average rain predicted for the next four days, Cllr Perry said it was “heart-warming” to hear of such community resilience.
He added: “I have received very positive feedback about how communities are pulling together to maintain business as usual.”
To help with Twyford’s Barrier Watch, email Ronnie Cloke-Browne at firstname.lastname@example.org or text 07957 188795.