Flood warnings as Britain is divided by the weather

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The Independent Online

People across the north of England and the Midlands were braced for renewed flooding yesterday as rising river levels prompted the evacuation of houses, the closure of roads and severe disruption to rail travel.

In Shropshire, Yorkshire and the North-east, rivers swelled to bursting point as a fresh band of rain fell. The new threat follows two days of erratic weather in which the South has been unseasonably mild and wet while the North has endured cold winds and rain.

As the Met Office issued severe weather warnings for northern England, heavy rain and high winds were also likely to affect Northern Ireland. The Met Office said northern England had suffered its wettest January since 1995 and the seventh wettest start to the year since records began.

The Environment Agency issued more than 100 flood warnings and 15 severe flood warnings, 12 in the North-east alone. In Yorkshire, severe flood warnings were in place in Huddersfield, Wakefield, and Skipton. The Environment Agency issued severe warnings for the river Severn at Shrewsbury.

Forecasters are predicting more rain for the next two days and a continuation of the bizarre climactic conditions that have seen towns as far north as Blackpool enjoying unseasonably mild temperatures of 10C while Newcastle shivered in near-freezing temperatures.

The village of Armitage Bridge, just outside Huddersfield, appeared to bear the brunt of yesterday's localised flooding after a stream burst its banks. Firefighters helped evacuate 60 homes and more than 100 staff after they became trapped at a factory site in Silsden when it flooded.

In Toll Bar, Yorkshire, many homeowners spent the day placing sandbags across their doorways. Some had just returned after last year's floods.

Rail services were severely disrupted across the North. In Lancashire, the west coast main line was closed between Lancaster and Preston. In Yorkshire, there were no trains from Leeds to York, Harrogate, Bradford, Manchester Victoria, Sheffield or Blackpool North. In Shropshire, firefighters rescued a woman forced to spend the night in her car after it was swept away as she tried to cross a ford near Bridgnorth.

Barbara Young, chief executive of the Environment Agency, warned people in flood-prone areas to remain vigilant and to take precautionary measures.