A Peak District town was being evacuated on Thursday afternoon as a nearby reservoir looked set to burst.
Residents of Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, were told to leave their homes and make arrangements to stay with friends or family “for a number of days” after severe weather in recent days left the Toddbrook reservoir damaged and dangerously full.
Business owners and visitors were earlier advised to leave the town so any evacuation could “be done as quickly and safely as possible”. Road closures and diversions were already in place.
Officers from Derbyshire police were on the scene at the reservoir along with the local fire and rescue service, mountain rescue and ambulance services and Environment Agency staff.
“We understand that there will be some concern around not being able to return home, however, our priority is to ensure people are kept safe and well and are not taking unnecessary risks.
“This is not a decision that has been taken lightly and we appreciate that there is significant impact on this community, however, this is an unprecedented, fast-moving, emergency situation.”
Evacuees from the town were told to make their way to Chapel high school, several miles away in the neighbouring town of Chapel-en-le-Frith, where police officers and emergency workers would provide further direction.
“Residents are asked to make alternative arrangements to stay with friends and family, ensure that any pets are taken with them and that all medication that may be needed for a number of days is taken with them,” police said. “If people do not have somewhere to go then they will be accommodated, however, there is limited capacity to do so.”
Built in 1831, the Toddbrook reservoir sits above the town of Whaley Bridge so water can flow downhill to feed the Peak Forest canal. Just before 2pm the Environment Agency issued a severe flood warning in the area.
“River levels in the River Goyt could rise rapidly as a result of water coming from Toddbrook Reservoir,” the agency said. “Please be aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with the current situation, and avoid using low lying footpaths near local watercourses.”
The Met Office forecast “much drier” weather on Thursday after homes were evacuated and stranded people were rescued as a result of flooding in parts of the UK.
A major incident was declared late on Wednesday evening in Poynton, Cheshire, where thunderstorms and downpours forced drivers to abandon their vehicles and caused damage to property. The wet weather also caused rail disruption on the line between Manchester airport and Wilmslow early on Thursday.
Cheshire fire and rescue service (CFRS) said firefighters, emergency services personnel and staff from Highways England were helping those affected and a rest centre had been established at Poynton civic hall.
Police urged people not to ignore “road closed” signs by driving or walking through water. “Your car could become submerged and the road underneath could have collapsed, putting you in danger,” the local force said on Twitter.
CFRS said: “Crews and police officers are working very hard to get to those in need and the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Poynton fire station said its crews had attended more than 20 incidents, rescuing at least 11 people in a four-hour period.
Police in nearby Wilmslow said officers were dealing with flooding and had evacuated homes, with Oakenclough children’s centre open as a rest centre.
Luke Miall, a Met Office forecaster, said sporadic rain was likely on Thursday in central and western Scotland and northern England, possibly as far south as Yorkshire.
“There may be some showers but they’re likely to not be as frequent nor as significant as the last few days,” he said. South-west England and parts of Wales may also see occasional showers
On Wednesday the Environment Agency put out multiple flood warnings and alerts covering central, north-west and north-east England. Photos shared on social media showed the aftermath of heavy rain that struck Horwich in Bolton on Wednesday.
Jess, 20, was caught in the “mammoth” rain that flooded roads to “shin height”, according to posts she shared on Twitter. “I had my dog with me and as we crossed the road she almost got swept away, so I had to pull her across to me and pick her up,” she told PA Media. “I then waded through the rest of the water, about a foot and a half deep. I’ve never seen water that deep in such a residential area before.”
On Thursday morning across England there were 17 flood warnings, meaning immediate action was required, and 27 flood alerts advising people to be prepared.