A month and a half’s rain in 36 hours, 40 flood alerts... but there’s still a drought


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The Independent Online

Rain continued to batter Britain today, with 40 rivers put on flood alert, and flood warnings requiring immediate action in place in five regions.

Nearly a month and a half's rain has fallen on South East England over the last 36 hours, and in Wimbledon, south west London, it has been raining non-stop since 4pm on Sunday.

Wiggonholt in West Sussex received the heaviest rain, with 63mm falling in the last 24 hours, while a particularly intense 12-hour period saw Otterbourne in Hampshire receive 39mm.

The Environment Agency said the bad weather is set to run into the weekend, with a “continued risk” of surface water flooding from overwhelmed drains in East and West Sussex, Surrey, Kent and London.


But despite the heavy rainfall, an Environment Agency spokesman confirmed areas of southern England remained in drought.

He said: "The rain we have had since the start of April - following the driest March for 70 years - has led to a huge improvement in water resources, putting us in a much more positive position for the summer.

"Water companies have seen reservoir levels rise, river levels are mostly back to normal, and many wildlife habitats that were suffering due to a lack of water have recovered.

"While the risk of drought with further water restrictions and associated environmental impacts this summer has reduced, the situation could deteriorate again next year if there is not enough rain this winter, particularly as groundwater levels are still low for this time of year."

And the Met Office confirmed the UK was still well below its average rainfall for June, saying that between January and May, 392.5mm of rain fell across the country, compared to an average of 439mm.

In southern England - including drought-hit areas in East Anglia, the South East and the Thames Valley region - 281.8mm of rain fell from January to May, compared to an average of 303.2mm.

Despite the talk of drought, there are currently three flood warnings signifying ‘flooding expected, immediate action required’ in place in the South East - at River Colne in Colney Heath, Felpham on the Aldingbourne Rife and Bersted on the Aldingbourne Rife.

The other two flood warnings are in East Anglia; at Simpson to Willen Lake, and the River Ouzel at Leighton Buzzard.

The are a further 40 flood alerts in place, with 32 in the South East, five in East Anglia, 1 in the Midlands and 1 in the North East. A flood alert means 'flooding is possible, be prepared'.

More flood alerts are expected to be announced in new regions later today, with forecasts of torrential downpours in Torbay and South Devon in the South West.

Julia Simpson, the Environment Agency's regional duty manager, said: "With rain forecast for every day this week and potentially heavy rainfall at the weekend, we want people to stay aware of the risk of further flooding.

"Many roads have experienced surface water flooding and motorists are strongly advised to keep out of dangerous floodwater and not to attempt to drive through it.

"Some rivers have stabilised but others are yet to peak as the water moves through, so we could potentially see further flood alerts and flood warnings being issued.

The flooding has already wreaked havoc across the country, causing the evacuation of villages, and the closure of roads and a hospital.

Residents of Pennal in Mid Wales were evacuated last night following a breach in the dam of a quarry. This comes after 1,500 people were evacuated and 150 rescued in Mid Wales over the weekend.

Meanwhile, emergency cases at Worthing Hospital in West Sussex were diverted to Brighton and Chichester for several hours last night after flooding.

And the RSPCA said it was working closely with fire services to rescue stranded animals, including 20 cows left marooned on a river bank near Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex,