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Woman and son in flood rescue drama
A HIGH-tech experiment to try to stop motorists driving down remote flooded lanes in West Dorset failed to prevent a mother and her young son getting into trouble in a notorious flood blackspot at Whitchurch Canonicorum.
Fire crews, including a rescue team from Weymouth and a wading crew from Bridport were alerted when the woman’s car drove into rapidly rising water at Gassons Lane during torrential rain last Wednesday lunchtime.
Electronic flood warning signs have been installed at either end of the area of the lane prone to serious flooding.
But they were only illuminated an hour after the woman found herself stranded in the flooded lane, when the rising levels of the nearby River Char triggered the sensors.
The signs are one of three sites in the south west being trialled by the Environment Agency in a bid to stop drivers entering flood-prone lanes, unaware of the risks ahead.
The woman had followed a lorry into the flooded area of the lane just before noon, but she got stuck in the deep water across the road.
A fire crew from Charmouth was the first on the scene and they helped the mother and nine-year-old boy out of the car, which was rapidly filling with water. They were shaken by the incident, but unharmed.
Police then closed the lane to traffic until the water subsided.
An onlooker said: “The road was so flooded it was like a river, with flood water flowing from the fields. About 100 metres into the flood was the car, clearly stuck.
“The problem with that lane is that there is no turning room, so when you reach the flood, you either make the decision to ‘chance it’ or reverse all the way back.
“The problem with ‘chancing it’ is that you cannot tell where the road ends and the ditch starts.”
An Environment Agency spokesman said that when the car became marooned, the water across the lane was as a result of rain and run-off from the surrounding fields, rather than river water.
“By that time of day the river had not risen enough, but at 12.58 the signs came on.
“As a result of this incident we are in touch with the highways authority to make sure that surface water drainage and pipes are working as they should, to allow rain and water running down the hill and off the fields to drain away from the road.
“But we would repeat our warnings that motorists should be very careful in such conditions, warning signs or not.
“One minute a car can be stuck in what is effectively a big puddle, then the river can rise and it does not take much for a car to be swept away.”