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Saturday, 30 May 2015

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Tynedale: After the snow ...the floods

THE rapid thaw coupled with a forecast of heavy rain and winds gusting at speeds of more than 60mph prompted the Environment Agency to put the district on flood alert this week.

As milder temperatures saw the snow all but vanish at the weekend, the rising waters of the River Tyne between Hexham and Wylam, the South Tyne, North Tyne, the River Rede from Catcleugh Reservoir to Redesmouth and the River Pont in Ponteland caused the agency to issue the alerts.

Northumbrian Water said reservoirs in the district were fuller than normal at this time of year, but all were designed to overflow into the nearest river at peak periods.

Kielder is at 98 per cent capacity, Whittle Dene on the Military Road is 99 per cent full and Catcleugh Reservoir near Byrness has reached 100 per cent of its capacity.

Meanwhile, standing water made conditions treacherous on several key roads, while many minor routes had to be closed, including the C201 between Bellingham and West Woodburn.

However, the last snow showers on Friday gave families just enough time to head out for some final sledging or snowman building.

Keen skiers also made the most of the conditions at Allenheads Ski Club which was able to run its lifts for the entire week – to the delight of the 150 skiers who made it up to the slopes on Saturday.

Lift operator, Guy Javens kept the tows operating all week, but was forced to shut up shop on Sunday following the sudden thaw.

“We had some beautiful snow on Saturday but it’s amazing how quickly the weather changes and it rained all night,” he said.

“On Sunday there just wasn’t enough snow to make it worth operating.”

The club, which currently has around 250 members, attracts skiers from Newcastle and regular visitors from Kent and Oxfordshire.

In Prudhoe, there was a thaw of a different kind when a resident who spent hours gritting the town’s Castlefields estate during last week’s snow settled his differences with highways chiefs.

Peter Finn had accused Northumberland County Council of providing a poor gritting service and claimed he had gritted the estate himself for the past 16 years.

Now, the 45-year-old says he held a positive meeting with county council officials at the estate, and is confident things will improve.

He said: “Credit where it’s due, they have taken the time to come and see the problems first hand that we have here in Castlefields during bad weather.

“I feel they deserve recognition for that.

“They listened and made some very valid comments and suggestions with regards to preventing the ongoing issues here.

“The onus is on them to deliver, but I do feel they now know action must be taken.”