Whaley Bridge residents appear to have had a lucky escape as operations to reduce the water levels in Toddbrook reservoir continue. Residents will not be allowed to return to their homes until the water levels drop to 25% which will take a few more days work. Once this is achieved the emergency phase of the operation will be over and contractors can then look at repairing the damage.
For once the weather was on the side of the residents this weekend. Forecasters had warned of 30 - 40mm of rainfall on Sunday night but thankfully Whaley Bridge missed the worst storms and only saw a few showers. Had the heavy rain arrived it is doubtful the dam would have survived and the consequences to the town would have been devastating. Despite this, 22 residents from 16 households still refused to leave their homes. They have been sharply criticised by the police for not only putting their own lives at risk but also the lives of the emergency services. As Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swan said 'We've not evacuated this for no reason. We've evacuated this because there is a real prospect that the dam could fail, and if it is fails it is catastrophic'
The Canal & River Trust which owns the dam said it carried out an annual inspection of the dam in November and it was 'absolutely fine'. However they agree with the police and the Environment agency that there is now a real risk that the 188 year old structure could still collapse and flood the town. Questions must be asked as to how thorough the annual inspection was and what steps will be taken to ensure the stability of the structure.
Whilst the residents of Whaley Bridge will be pleased when they can return to their homes, there is no doubt they will be anxiously keeping an eye on the weather forecasts for some time to come.