Flash flood fears in drought-hit areas


Much of England and Wales will get a further soaking today, with strong winds and heavy downpours expected to hit tonight.

Drought-afflicted areas are braced for the possibility of flash floods as up to 40mm of rain is forecasted to fall in places.

England and Wales have experienced the wettest week since December with forecasters seeing no sign of the rain letting up and supermarkets reporting soaring sales of wellies and umbrellas in the face of the deluge.

The Environment Agency has warned of the possibility of localised flooding across parts of the South West, South East and Midlands, East of England and Wales on Sunday as the wet weather moves in.

Many of the areas at risk of floods are currently in a state of drought, which is gripping the South East, East Anglia, the Midlands, the South West and south and east Yorkshire after two unusually dry winters in a row.

In its latest weekly drought briefing, the Environment Agency said all regions had now received above average rainfall for April, boosting river levels and providing relief for farmers, gardeners and wildlife in drought areas.

But groundwater levels remained low and the rain was not yet making a difference to the drought conditions, the agency warned.

And soil left dry by prolonged dry weather is increasing the risk of flash floods as heavy rain quickly runs off hard, compacted ground.

Aisling Creevey, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said the worst weather would be tomorrow.

She said of today: "There will be spells of rain and drizzle in southern England and Wales throughout the day.

"By late afternoon it will start to get heavier and there will be winds of up to 40mph by the end of the night. Cornwall, the far south west of Wales and coastal areas of Lincolnshire and northern parts of East Anglia will be hit. They could rise to 50mph."

She said tomorrow would be a "blustery, wet, very unpleasant day," with wind gusts of up to 60mph.

"There is already a lot of waterlogged ground and there will be significant rain totals meaning that localised flooding is likely."

Nine flood warnings were in place today for the North East, with properties at risk from rising water levels in a number of rivers including the Ouse in York. Householders were urged to take action to protect their homes.

Another band of rain looks set to hit the country on Tuesday.

The latest downpours come at the end of a particularly wet week for England and Wales, in which 42mm (1.7in) of rain fell in the South East and 55mm (2.2in) in the South West, which has now had 166% of the average rainfall for April.

More than two dozen properties were flooded in St Helen Auckland, Co Durham, on Thursday, while there were localised floods in Devon and Cornwall earlier in the week.

As a result of the rain, soil is much less dry and river levels are now normal at the majority of the sites monitored by the Environment Agency, with only the River Coln experiencing "exceptionally low" flows.

The rain is good for farmers and gardeners, while raised water levels and cool temperatures have eased the pressure on fish and wildlife in rivers, the Environment Agency said.

But the agency said most of the rain was being soaked up by dry soil, or running off and causing flooding. As the country moves from spring to summer most rainfall will evaporate in warmer temperatures or be taken up by plants as they grow.

And with the rain unlikely to help shift the hosepipe bans imposed by seven water companies across southern and eastern England, the Environment Agency suggested householders buy water butts this weekend to capture rainfall which can be used to water gardens if dry weather returns.

A man and his 11-year-old son were rescued last night after their car become stuck in flood water.

Two fire crews from the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service were called to the scene at Holcombe Rogus, Wellington, Somerset, at about 9.30pm.

Firefighters from Cullompton and Wellington winched the car to safety.

The rescue follows a similar incident on Thursday night at 9.41pm when firefighters were called to North Perrott, near Crewkerne, in Somerset where they found a woman and teenage boy hanging out of the windows in their car and grabbing on to the roof.

The vehicle had become trapped after it was driven into 3ft of flood water.

Fire crews donned dry suits and rescued the pair from the vehicle, taking them, uninjured, to dry land.

Flood alerts remain in place on the Lower Stour River and its tributaries between Wimborne and Christchurch and on the Middle Stour and its tributaries between Sturminster Newton and Wimborne, in Dorset which has seen the brunt of the rainfall.

But a temporary respite in the wet weather has led to three flood warnings being lifted by the Environment Agency on the rivers in Devon and Dorset.


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago