By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
COUNCIL bosses have admitted they were not prepared for Storm Ciara’s heavy rain – and only planned for the high winds.
The storm, which caused flooding and destruction across the country, arrived after days of weather forecasts warning of torrential rain.
In a private email exchange responding to questions over its preparedness and the practical steps it took to minimise flooding, a senior Kirklees Council figure said the authority had been caught out by the storm severity.
The council’s outgoing strategic director, economy and infrastructure, Karl Battersby said: “The reality is that the weather warnings were for severe wind rather than significant rain. Unfortunately we got both.
“River levels were not an issue before the weekend. We have seen the highest river levels recorded, and pretty much unprecedented levels of rain in such a short period of time.”
He added: “At this moment in time we are focused on recovery, and in particular making sure that those who are most vulnerable are safe.”
Mr Battersby’s response was criticised by Conservative councillor Martyn Bolt, who represents flood-hit Mirfield.
He said early forecasts by the Met Office last week warned of heavy rain with up to 80mm falling on the hills. It issued a yellow weather warning for wind and rain ahead of the weekend.
“Surely it shows that there was no emergency planning in place by the council and potentially other partners,” said Coun Bolt.
“The question I am posing is: what is happening?”
Coun Bolt said reservoirs could have had levels lowered to reduce capacity and asked what lessons had been learned from the 2015 Boxing Day floods.
“There were no practical steps put in place following the early Ciara warnings. They assumed it wasn’t to be of the level that the Met Office had predicted. Did they take their eye off the ball?”
Mr Battersby responded: “I didn’t say it didn’t forecast rain, but it was a yellow warning and not of the scale we received.”
A council spokesman said preparations had been made, but conditions became worse than forecast and the council is focusing on the worst-affected areas and sending out teams to support vulnerable members of communities. The spokesman added: “We led on this response and have been working closely with other organisations including the police and fire service.”