Storm poses Christmas Day flooding threat for thousands of homes
Thousands of homeowners are on alert tonight and praying for a dry Christmas Day as they await the latest winter storm amid flood warnings.
Heavy rain is forecast to fall on already swollen rivers and saturated ground in Cumbria on Friday evening, where flooding has hit some areas three times already this month.
Flood alerts have also been issued across a vast swathe of the country, with around 30 flood warnings, where flooding is expected, stretching from Wales to Scotland.
But the North East and North West of England is expected to bear the brunt again, as Storm Eva rolls in after leaving almost 2,000 homes and businesses in Ireland without electricity this morning.
Another deluge of up to six inches of rain is expected after Cumbria already suffered the wettest December since records began in 1910.
A multi-agency Strategic Coordination Group has been set up to combat the expected rainfall.
Armed forces have been called in and 700 Environment Agency (EA) staff are on stand-by to bolster flood defences as more sandbags and water pumps are rushed to Cumbria.
Flood defence gates have this afternoon been closed in Carlisle, Keswick and Cockermouth and the EA has transported over two kilometres of temporary flood barriers and more than 20 extra pumps to the north of England.
Four of these are high volume pumps capable of moving 1,000 litres of water per second.
Teams of workers from the agency have also been out checking and maintaining flood defences, clearing blockages in watercourses and monitoring water levels.
The Met Office has issued an amber alert for the county, highlighting the increased likelihood of "medium impacts" from the rain, meaning some flooding of homes, businesses and transport links is possible and warning people to be prepared to protect themselves and their property.
Rain will spread across Wales and northern England through the course of Christmas Day, reaching southern parts of Scotland during the early hours of Boxing Day, with prolonged spells forecast for south Cumbria.
The latest deluge will come as towns and villages across the county are still clearing up the aftermath of Storm Desmond earlier this month, which left hundreds of homes and businesses under water.
Around 40 roads and bridges remain damaged and closed, along with hundreds of homes left uninhabitable.
Paul Mustow, deputy director in Flood and Coastal Risk Management at the EA, said: "Our thoughts are with all those who have had their homes and businesses flooded, some several times, in the run up to Christmas.
"Our operational teams are working throughout the Christmas period to take action to reduce the potential impacts of flooding and support those communities affected."
Superintendent Justin Bibby, of Cumbria Constabulary, said: "The multi-agency strategic coordination group has been set up and will work throughout the period to ensure that the areas that are expected to be disrupted are as protected and resilient as possible.
"Staff from all agencies are being prepared to respond to the expected disruption as required.
"I would urge those in the likely flood-affected areas to make sure they keep up to date with the weather conditions, road conditions and the Environment Agency's latest advice as this is a dynamic and changing event.
"Advice to motorists is not to in any circumstance ignore road closure signs and continue on your journey. Also driving through flood water is extremely dangerous as you cannot determine the depth, please do not risk this."
Elsewhere, the EA said that for the next three days along the River Severn in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Worcestershire and the River Ouse in York, there is a possibility of sections of roads being flooded, travel disruption and delays due to temporary flood defences being deployed.
High tides are also expected around Christmas, bringing with them the potential for isolated instances of large waves and spray along parts of the south and west coast of England.
Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said that after the latest run of bad weather the agency will talk to the communities affected to look at how they can be better protected in the future.
More information and help is available at www.gov.uk/check-if-youre-at-risk-of-flooding or follow @EnvAgency and #floodaware on Twitter for the latest flood updates.
Traffic and travel information is available at www.cumbria.police.uk/traffic-link-map and a helpline has been opened on 0345 988 1188.