Belfast Telegraph

Flood fears after weather warnings

Fears of flooding have hit parts of Britain after a number of weather warnings for wind and rain.

Northern Ireland and Scotland can expect windy conditions for much of the day, with northern and eastern parts of Northern Ireland facing gusts of up to 70mph. Yesterday winds speeds of almost 100mph were recorded on the south coast of England.

A band of rain will move north east across the UK, leaving drier and calmer conditions in its wake in parts of Wales and central and southern England.

The Met Office predicted that 10-20 mm of rain could fall within 2-3 hours from this cold front sweeping across the region. The strongest of the winds should remain to the west of the warning area, although very localised squalls may accompany the cold front across south-west England and Wales.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency said it is expecting further heavy rain in Tayside, Angus and Aberdeenshire through today and into the weekend.

The Environment Agency (EA) said that localised river flooding is possible for parts of south-west Wales, east Devon and the south-east of England. It could see spray and waves topping coastal defences and promenades.

The EA has 20 flood alerts in place across the South East, the West, the Midlands and Pembrokeshire in Wales. It has also issued a flood warning for Wales.

Residents on the Somerset Levels, who have seen increased river levels and a week of rain, are expecting the downpour to continue to the weekend. Fortunately a repeat of February's flooding which devastated homes, businesses, agriculture and wildlife, is currently unlikely.

A project to widen the riverbanks of the River Tone and the River Parrett finished on October 31, and a five-mile section of both rivers has also been dredged.

Rebecca Horsington of the flood campaign group Flag welcomed this but said that a long-term commitment needs to be made to continue dredging the rivers.

She said: "It's very frustrating because we know it needs to be done, the river levels are high but it's not doing much unusual for this time of year.

"Whereas normally people wouldn't take much notice, now trust has been completely wrecked after last year.

"We have had these dredges but there's no long-term commitment.

"There are people whose mental health has been wrecked by this. They don't trust the authorities, they don't trust where they live any more."

Jo Elton, 49, and her friend Sandra Thexton, 68, who live in West Yeo, a hamlet near one of the worst-affected villages, Moorland, were among more than 150 Somerset households who were told to leave their homes.

They were out of their home for two months and despite narrowly escaping being flooded, they are still cleaning up. They were stranded in their house for a week while they waited to be rescued.

Ms Elton said: "Even though we are very aware of the levels of water that are required to put us at threat, you are on alert the whole time and I think that's unlikely to go away.

"It was very scary, particularly when we saw water knocking walls down.

"We went out and there were five bar gates and hedges covered in water.

"The stress to the animals and to us was incredibly high."

Laura Young, of the Met Office, said: "It's mainly because you have already had quite a lot of rainfall in that area. You are looking at 10mm to 20mm. On south-facing hills this could get up to 40mm.

"That's not a lot of water for that time of year but it's coming after a lot of rain and you could see a lot of rivers being quite full and responding quite quickly."

However, the Met Office also said that in the longer term drier weather should allow water a chance to drain.

"The problem last year was that there were no dry days in Somerset.

"There wasn't any chance for the water to drain away.

"We are looking at some good dry days over the weekend and into the beginning of next week."

An EA spokesman said: "There may be further isolated showers over the next few days but river levels are dropping and the risk of flooding is very low. We'll continue to monitor river levels closely and keep local communities informed.

"In Somerset some agricultural floodplain is currently storing water as a result of planned management of river levels. This is completely normal for this time of year.

"We are not expecting any properties to flood. It would take very heavy rainfall over a long period of time to put homes at risk."

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