Storm Katie wreaks havoc across St Albans district

The fallen willow tree at the bottom of Holywell Hill which was damaged in storm Katie

The fallen willow tree at the bottom of Holywell Hill which was damaged in storm Katie - Credit: Archant

Two passing tree surgeons leapt into action when they noticed a ‘giant’ tree had fallen across both lanes of a busy road in St Albans after stormy weather during Easter weekend.

Chainsaws were used to chop the trunk into manageable chunks as the tree was blocking St Albans Road, beyond Carpenter’s Nursery, Sandridge, on Saturday (26), before Storm Katie swept through.

St Albans resident Helen Stone, who was trying to drive through the area, said: “The giant tree fell on Easter Saturday – it was a big, well established tree, and it was blocking the road.

“I could see smoke behind a big bus and so went to have a look. Two men had stopped, passing tree surgeons – not council ones – and they were clearing it up, so the smoke was coming from the chainsaws.

“Then the police came to close part of the road.”

Other trees were also toppled in high winds, including an old willow by the River Ver at the base of Holywell Hill.

A spokeswoman for St Albans district council said: “A few small trees came down on district council land [during Easter weekend], but not on the scale of previous storms, and not as severe as in other parts of the country.

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“We are assessing the damage at the moment.”

A spokesman for Herts county council said that on a ‘normal’ weekend, the authority’s highways contractor Ringway would usually have between 10 and 15 call outs, “but from 5pm on Thursday (24) through to 6.30am on Tuesday (29) they received 177 call outs.

“Ninety-four of these were between 11pm on Sunday (27) and 4pm on Monday. Of these 94, 16 call outs were in the St Albans district.”

A breakdown of the council’s figures shows that Ringway was alerted to 11 weather-related incidents in St Albans – the majority of which were fallen trees - and three in Harpenden, while fallen trees were also reported in Wheathampstead, Smallford, Redbourn, Bricket Wood and London Colney from March 27-28.

Paramedics were also kept busy, with an East of England Ambulance Service representative saying that staff and volunteers experienced a 17 per cent surge in demand over Easter weekend throughout the region.

In Herts alone, there were 1,989 call outs, compared to 1,736 during the same time last year.

Patients in St Albans counted for 114 of those emergency calls.

The service’s chief executive Robert Morton thanked colleagues “for their hard work during another busy bank holiday weekend and all the community responders who dedicated their spare time to help patients during the Easter break.”

Firefighters attended a wide range of incidents over the long weekend, including a kitchen fire in Caesars Road, Wheathampstead, a tree which was reported to have fallen on a car and house in Watford Road, and a small fire in an oven at the Mercure St Albans Noke Hotel in Watford Road, on Monday (28).

Luton Airport confirmed that just two flights were either cancelled or diverted due to adverse weather conditions – one on Saturday and one on Monday.

The Environment Agency placed a flood alert on some local waterways, including the Upper River Colne, from 5.30pm on Sunday (27), but these were lifted by 9.30am on Tuesday.