Ipswich: Town grinds to a halt in bad weather – but experts say the worst is still to come

Traffic backs up on Colchester Road in Ipswich due to Orwell Bridge's closure on Wednesday.

Traffic backs up on Colchester Road in Ipswich due to Orwell Bridge's closure on Wednesday.

Forecasters have warned the worst is yet to come after Ipswich ground to a halt yesterday when gale force winds and torrential rain forced the closure of the Orwell Bridge causing travel chaos.

Downpours and winds stronger than those that prompted the Highways Agency to shut the bridge for more than three hours yesterday afternoon are expected tomorrow.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said the persistent problems posed by the bridge’s closure called for a “long-term strategic solution”.

“That either means an improved route around the north of the town, a new river crossing or both,” he said.

“I’m trying to push both councils to look at realistically at both options.

“Yesterday just shows why we are going to need to make serious plans soon.”

Mr Gummer said the closures were a hassle for people and off-putting to businesses looking to create jobs in the town.

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“The town grinds to a halt and I think that previously it has been thought that it’s only Ipswich so it does not matter – well that’s not good enough.”

Motorists reported journeys of three miles taking as long as 30 minutes, even after the bridge reopened at 5.15pm.

Parks and cemeteries in the town closed early for fear of falling trees and Ipswich Borough Council advised people to take extra care in those areas.

A fallen tree also blocked the train line at Kennett, causing delays and cancellations to services between Ipswich and Cambridge.

After a brief respite today, when dry, breezy conditions are hoped to ease the saturated land, downpours and gale force winds are expected to return tomorrow.

Norman Robinson, from the Environment Agency, said: “People really need to keep an eye on the forecast and local conditions as we move into the weekend.

“We could have up to 20mm of rain over already wet ground so river levels will rise again and flood plains will get wetter.

“Travel across the region could be difficult and dangerous in places.”

Forecasters at Weatherquest are predicting winds gusting up to 70mph across the region, with coastal areas expected to fare the worst.

“There’s going to be heavy rain in the afternoon and late into the evening with some very strong winds that could become severe gales again,” said Jim Bacon.

“There could be storm force winds from a westerly and southerly direction and some very severe weather through the night.”

Mr Bacon said it was “very difficult” to make exact predictions while the low weather front was still forming on the other side of the Atlantic, though he has warned of trouble ahead.

“It can’t be very pleasing with the people who are already struggling to cope with yesterday’s wind and rain to know there’s another front close on its heels to come,” he said.