ALREADY submerged after a month’s rainfall in 24 hours, people in Cumbria are once again bracing themselves for another torrential downpour, with the Met Office warning of severe gales and lashing rain.

Storm Desmond has caused severe road and rail travel disruptions, with many streets still blocked completely. Motorists are facing major delays with bridges being washed away, but there has been slightly better news for rail passengers. The Cumbrian coastline has reopened after three days of ceaseless work by Network Rail engineers, but they are warning everyone to stay alert due to the persistent inclement weather.

Debbie Francis, acting route managing director of Network Rail, has congratulated the engineers on their brilliant work, but she warns of more trouble to come.

“The orange army has pulled out all the stops to get trains running again and get passengers and businesses on the move. I’d like to thank everyone for their patience during this difficult time.

“We know that any further rain will simply run off the top of the ground rather than soak in, so we remain on alert to tackle any further problems.”

With news of more severe weather heading into the majorly affected areas, Salford University student Niamh Lewis, from Lancaster, described how she has had to cope with rolling blackouts since the disaster on Friday.

“The Electricity is still running at the moment, but it’s due to go off at any moment and we don’t know how long for.

“I can still cook because we have a gas hob and there’s also a wood burner too so I can heat the house. In truth, the electricity hasn’t bothered me – it’s actually been quite nice learning to survive without it! The shower works but there is just no hot water.”

Both Niamh and her parents have counted themselves lucky that they both live atop a hill, allowing them to escape the flooding.

“Luckily both my house and my parents’ house are on hills so we haven’t been affected by the floods but we have by the electricity outages. But of course not everyone has a gas cooker or a gas fire like me, so when the power goes off they are stuck with nothing.”

With the power severing communication across the area, as both phone signals and 3G were down, Niamh found the only source of news was her battery powered radio. Warnings were also enforced across the region in regards to travel in and out of the area.

“I have a battery radio to listen to updates and can charge my phone in the car, so it’s not too bad. But over the weekend everything went down. Contacting friends and family was almost impossible as a lot of landlines didn’t work either. When the radio station came back on it mentioned there were places where you could get signal and 3G. Fortunately we’re back up and running now.

“I had heard some roads had been closed in the city centre, as well as the one-way system and the A6. People were advised to either go home, or stay home.”

As with any natural disaster, people came together in the face of adversity and Niamh was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of support that people had for each other.

“The community spirit has been truly unbelievable! People have been checking on neighbours and inviting them round for food and allsorts! We can’t forget to thank the Electricity Northwest people who have been working since it went off at half past ten on Saturday night, as well as all of the emergency services.”

With over five thousand properties affected by the horrendous weather conditions, and with only two weeks before Christmas, a JustGiving page has been set up in order to raise money for those devastated by the disaster. Thousands of people have donated over three hundred thousand pounds towards the Cumbria Community Foundation, which is helping people get back on their feet.

Rapid clean-up operations have arisen in Carlisle, Keswick and Cockermouth but the Environment Agency believes flood warnings may be issued once again for those areas. Appleby and Kendal have also been put on high alert for the incoming weather.

Cumbria Police have warned lorries and caravans to not use the A66 as heavy winds are expected to batter the area. People are being urged to stay at home and avoid travel at all cost, unless absolutely necessary.

Have you been affected by Storm Desmond? If so we would love to hear from you. Please contact us on Twitter @QuaysNews and via our QuaysNews Facebook page.

By Hayden Brigden

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