European edition, Tuesday, July 24, 2007

RAF FAIRFORD, England — U.S. military bases could not escape damage from downpours that caused heavy flooding and left thousands without water and electricity supplies in western and central England.

Temporary barriers had to be used at Fairford to divert flood waters, and sandbags had to be placed around “high-risk” military family housing units, while a pumper-truck removed water from the base communications switch building, according to base spokesman Tech. Sgt. Keith Houin.

Fairford’s community center had severe water damage to its ballroom, offices and hallway that are now in need of complete restoration; the base exchange suffered damage to its customer service area because of roof leaks; and some military family housing had carpet damage, Houin wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

At RAF Welford, there has been extensive flooding on base, including its munitions storage area.

“A full assessment is being conducted of the weapons area and stockpiled munitions,” Houin wrote, adding that cost estimates to all damaged facilities at both bases will be carried out in a detailed survey.

Despite some standing water on airfield and base road surfaces, both bases are fully mission-capable, with no damage to power, heating, water or wastewater treatment plants, he added.

On Friday, monsoon-like rainfall of 5½ inches fell on Fairford as a result of a slow moving frontal system from the south, according to Capt. Tom Crenshaw, technical services flight commander at the 21st Operational Weather Squadron in Sembach Air Base, Germany.

“RAF Fairford received well over a month of rain in only one day; probably an all-time record amount — potentially a monthly record rainfall as well,” Crenshaw wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The heavy rainfall had fire and emergency services on Fairford respond to an off-base rescue of an elderly couple from a caravan that was five feet under water at a nearby campsite.

Fairford rescue crews also remained on alert status to evacuate a local nursing home as water threatened to flood the facility, which was eventually deemed unnecessary, Houin added.

Rain continued at a less intense rate over the weekend. However, there was no way to accurately measure how much fell since meteorological sensors were shut down due to flooding on Fairford, Crenshaw said.

The weather doesn’t look to improve for this area in the coming days as additional, less intense rain is in the forecast, he said.

About 30 miles northwest of Fairford, in the town of Tewkesbury, a Severn Trent water treatment facility had to be closed, leaving 150,000 homes in the area without water until at least Wednesday, according to a Sky News report.

The town of Upton-upon-Severn, five miles north of Tewkesbury, has been completely cut off by the floodwater, which forced stranded residents to be evacuated by helicopter as well as major disruptions to road and rail networks, the report added.

Roughly 43,000 homes in Gloucestershire had no power as of Monday, while the River Severn and the Thames threatened to overflow, according to the BBC.

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