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Drivers who ignore road closure signs left stranded in flood water

By Central Somerset Gazette  |  Posted: December 13, 2012

  • 4x4s and other vehicles abandoned in the water, with huge bales floating along, several feet above the surface of the A361

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Drivers wanting to use one of the most popular routes into central Somerset are ignoring road closure signs and getting stuck in flood water.

For the past three weeks huge swathes of the Somerset Levels have remained under water as the deluges from the November storms continue to cause misery.

One of the worst-hit areas has been south west of Ashcott.

Large lakes have formed, stretching across farmland and roads.

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The A361 Taunton to Ashcott road is one of the main thoroughfares for commuters and visitors to the Street and Glastonbury area from the South West.

But for weeks it has been impassable to traffic.

Many cars were initially caught in the floods, prompting highway chiefs to install road closure signs at the Pipers Inn junction at Ashcott and outside Taunton.

However many more motorists ignored the warnings, even moving the signs in some cases before becoming stuck and having to call in emergency services.

One central Somerset resident who has seen for himself the bad conditions on the A361 is kayak and canoe hire specialist Chris Hill who runs his kayaks2hire.co.uk business from his Street home.

Last week Chris took kayaks down to Burrowbridge for his first ever paddle down the A361.

His photographs show cars and 4x4s abandoned in the middle of the newly-formed lake, many with the water flooded to just a few inches from the roof, open windows testament to how the occupants deserted their vehicles.

Plastic-wrapped bales, often as heavy as a ton in weight when dry, have floated feet above the surface of the road, drifting across into business premises.

Low hedges, rhynes, fences and gateways have disappeared beneath the waves making locations such as the roof of the Somerset Levels Basket and Craft Centre the only visible landmark along the usual picturesque route. It is not the first bit of cross-country canoeing that Chris has indulged in since the storms hit three weeks ago. In the first week he was able to take a canoe and paddle across the fields from Pomparles Bridge, seeing the Redlands Estate and Glastonbury Tor from a very different perspective.

"At times it was very eerie and very quiet, just how we like it," he said.

"Around Glastonbury the water was no more than 3ft deep."

Although the water levels around Glastonbury have fallen away, Chris thinks it will be some time before the water disappears from around the Burrowbridge area.

However people are still ignoring the warning signs and attempting to drive through and several hours after Chris made his canoe trip, emergency services were called to the same scene.

Shortly before 7pm a fire appliance, a special rescue team from Bridgwater and a rescue tender with non powered boat from Taunton, was alerted to a report of two people stuck in a lorry caught in the Burrowbridge floods.

A spokesman said: "Upon arrival crews donned dry suits and, utilising a boat, rescued two casualties suffering from the cold.

"The public are urged not to enter flood water or roads where there are "Road closed" signs."

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  • nigant  |  December 13 2012, 7:21PM

    They should be fined for moving the signs, and if they had to be rescued, they should also pay for that! Self inflicted, so insurance shouldn't cover it either.