Downpours spark town flood fears
EDENBRIDGE residents are breathing a sigh of relief after coming perilously close to experiencing a major flood this week.
The River Eden swelled by 1.67 metres over the weekend, leaving the Environment Agency on the brink of issuing an official flood alert for the town.
The organisation's flood and coastal risk management expert Neil Gunn said: "The river was close to the point where we need to issue a flood alert.
"A flood alert is issued when we anticipate there being flooding of rural roads and extensive flooding of fields."
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Mr Gunn said the agency was so concerned, it had an incident room open throughout the weekend and until Tuesday morning where the weather and catchments were closely monitored.
Edenbridge has experienced two major floods – in 1958 and 1968 – but has also had some narrow escapes in the past decade.
Last year the Environment Agency re-drew its flood maps to reveal 216 properties in the town were at high risk of flooding.
Among those anxiously watching the river this week was Waterlakes resident Margaret Luckhurst.
Miss Luckhurst, 76, lives beside the river and said: "Monday night was a bit sleepless.
"I was here last time the river levels got very high a few years ago and it was the same then."
Claire Miller, 43, had tried to walk her dog along their usual route through Lingfield Recreation Ground and the back field along the river on Tuesday.
The Park View Close resident said: "The ground and a lot of that back field there were impossible. It was covered in water and we had to turn back.
"It was a bit of a fright to see how quickly the river came up."
Driving conditions were treacherous, with the B2026 outside the animal sanctuary passable only at a snail's pace as water gathered at the bottom of the hill.
The river was a placid 1.04m high on Friday night but between midnight and 6am on Monday the water rose to a peak of 2.71, just over half a metre from its 2008 high of 3.35m.
By Tuesday morning the town was on a knife-edge as the river had almost burst its banks at the Stone Bridge.
Some nearby country paths were submerged by knee-deep water. Town weather expert David King warned it could burst its banks.
By Wednesday morning, however, the river had settled at a calmer 2.34m, dropping further to 1.79m later that day, as the drier weather arrived.
Further rain is forecast today (Friday) and over the weekend but experts do not predict it will have a significant impact.