FALLEN trees and fierce winds were just two of the perils endured by Stafford Borough commuters as they battled to get home last night – but the challenging conditions are far from over.
Last night’s stormy conditions brought trees crashing down onto roads including the busy A518 Newport Road at Haughton, the B5027 Uttoxeter Road between Stone and Hilderstone and the A520 at Windmill Hill, near Meir Heath.
Drivers on the northbound M6 out of Stafford faced delays after a tree fell onto a lorry between junctions 15 and 16 at Stoke on Trent, shortly before 4pm.
Staffordshire County Council’s highways teams worked through the night to clear the county’s roads of trees and other debris. They responded to more than 70 incidents on roads, dealing with fallen trees, flooding and the effects of building damage.
Staffordshire Police received an “unprecedented” number of calls last night. Between 5.30pm and 8pm call takers were busier than on a typical New Year’s Eve, dealing with 425 999 calls and 691 calls to non-emergency number 101.
Fire crews were also busy, attending many incidents including unsafe structures, and some fire crews and appliances have also been deployed to other parts of the country which are suffering from some of the worst flooding.
An operations centre was opened yesterday afternoon at Staffordshire Police’s headquarters in Stafford, where all partner agencies’ efforts are being coordinated.
Chief Inspector David Bird, police commander, said: “Many local people helped us out by reporting incidents and local farmers have been helping us at some incidents and clearing roads. We would like to thank you all for your support.”
This morning flood alerts remain in place around the rivers Sow and Penk in Stafford.
Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Infrastructure, said: “We have been working closely with colleagues in other agencies through the night to keep people safe and the county moving so it has been a real combined effort. The main issues have been around trees and other debris in the road as well as flooding.
“The teams will be out again today as there may still be some affected roads. We’re expecting a break in the severe weather today but will be monitoring conditions.
"Unfortunately it looks like there will be more bad weather over the weekend which we are prepared for. We’d urge people to check the forecast and drive with extra care.”
Rail travel was also disrupted last night after a tree hit overhead wires at Norton Bridge at around 2pm, stopping trains from calling at Stone. And yesterday evening all services through Crewe were stopped because of roof damage and falling debris at the station.
The line between Stafford and Birmingham New Street was also closed. It reopened this morning but passengers at Stafford station still faced uncertainty.
John Cooper Clark, who set off from Hertfordshire just before 7am was supposed to get to Liverpool for 10am. He said: “I’m going to Liverpool for several meetings with clients.
“We think we can get to Crewe, but we’re not sure after that. We might have to get a bus replacement service. The weather’s knackered the line up.
“The clients will find it annoying when we’re late and we will have to stay in Liverpool tonight.”
Liz Rusinowski , 45, of Weeping Cross, works at The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation in London. She said: “It took me nearly six hours last night to get home from Euston.
“There were no trains at all going any further than Birmingham. It was quite scary yesterday. There wasn’t much information We didn’t know whether we’d be able to get back at all.”
Laura Savatovich, who was travelling from Selly Oak to Stafford for a university lecture, faced a 45 minutes delay . “It’s made me late for a lecture meaning I’ll miss out on work. Delays are expected at this time of year but it’s annoying,” she said.
Software Engineering student Shahzad Bari , 20, from Birmingham, was also travelling to Staffordshire University. She said: “There’s been problems between Wolverhampton and Stafford this morning.
“It took a long time to get an announcement going about what’s going on. I was just left stood there.”