The wrong kind of drought: floods and high winds batter Britain


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The Independent Online

We're in drought, water companies in many parts of England declared. Don't dare use a hosepipe, they said, warning of fines, and urging residents to tell on their neighbours if they are seen wielding a hose.

But, to judge from the weather yesterday, they didn't account for the rain.

As heavy rain swept across the UK, the Environment Agency issued 11 flood warnings across South-west England in the space of 24 hours, urging residents and businesses to take action. The agency's Exeter office said two properties in Devon had been flooded.

A further 31 flood alerts, warning homeowners to "be prepared", were posted across the South-west, South-east, Midlands and North-east.

"The heaviest rain we've seen was at Exeter airport, where 35mm fell between 10pm on Tuesday and 3pm on Wednesday. Okehampton in the South-west saw 34.8mm, and Thorney Island near Portsmouth had 26.2mm," said Met Office spokesperson Helen Chivers.

The Met office issued seven severe weather warnings for the South of England and the Grampian region, warning of more rain to come.

"On Wednesday we'll see some torrential thundery showers across the Midlands and parts of Yorkshire. You'd expect rain in April, but what makes it stand out is that it came after such a warm March, when we saw temperatures in the 20s. This month, we've scarcely had temperatures above the teens," said Ms Chivers.

However, lest the drought conditions be forgotten, the unusually warm weather in recent months is thought in fact, to be the reason behind the risk of flash flooding. "Because we've had dry weather, the ground has dried and the soil has been compacted, meaning it doesn't absorb rainfall as easily," and Environment Agency spokesperson said.

The wet weather isn't good news for those being forced to do without their hosepipe either. Since the rain isn't being absorbed, the downpours will have had little effect on the parched groundwater.