Britain on flood alert as gales sweep in cold spell

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The Independent Online

Britain was battered by torrential rain and gale-force winds of 80mph yesterday, which caused structural damage and traffic delays and raised fears of flooding across the country.

Britain was battered by torrential rain and gale-force winds of 80mph yesterday, which caused structural damage and traffic delays and raised fears of flooding across the country.

One man died yesterday after being swept off a pier and into the sea by a wave.

The 46-year-old man was walking along Harrington Marina, near Workington, Cumbria, with his 19-year-old son when he was carried into the rough seas by a large wave.

The heavy rainfall prompted the Environment Agency to issue a number of flood watches and motorists and homeowners were urged to remain vigilant.

Forecasters predicted that the bad weather would continue through the weekend, with Wales, the North-east of England and parts of the South to be the worst hit.

Clive Burlton, the national duty forecaster at the Met Office, attributed the wet and windy weather to a low-pressure depression currently sweeping across the country.

He said: "There have been strong gusts of wind pretty much all over, with speeds up to 80 mph. That was clearly enough to cause some structural damage and traffic problems.

"As well as being windy, it's also been wet. There has also been torrential rain, with bursts of rainfall across the country."

The chill resulted in snowfall in some parts of Scotland yesterday, while more snow was expected over the weekend in parts of the North and in the East.

However, there were predictions that the weather would improve marginally today and tomorrow, with rain continuing to fall but not as many gusts of wind.

"It's going to be wet again over the weekend, particularly in the south, although the winds are expected to ease off a little," Mr Burlton said.

"It is going to get colder again. We did have a nice spell earlier in the week when temperatures rose to 18C in places. But by mid-week, there will be a chilly north wind again."

Meanwhile, there were fears that a growing number of locations across the country would be flooded as a result of the stormy weather.

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: "We currently have two flood watches issued in Cambridgeshire.

"There is a possibility of further warnings being issued in Wales and the South-east within the next few days."

While stormy weather is not unknown in Britain during the seasons of spring and autumn, meteorologists have voiced increasing concern about the impact of global warming on the country's climate.

"The equinoxes are traditionally the times of the year when you would expect the weather to be fairly unsettled," a spokesman for the Met Office said.

"While we've always expected stormy weather at these times, the average number of days with this type of weather is beginning to creep up.

"There is the sense that the country is becoming windier in general, while the winters are becoming milder, which is obviously related to global warming."

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