More flood misery predicted as rain persists


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The Independent Online

More flood misery is predicted for parts of Britain today after nearly a month's worth of rain fell in just three hours.

Thunderstorms and persistent showers drenched the south coast of England this afternoon and the Environment Agency (EA) warned areas of Dorset and Kent could be at particular risk.

There is also a risk of flooding from rising groundwater across parts of Wiltshire and Somerset, including Salisbury Plain, the weather experts warned.

In Somerset, heavy rain this morning has caused flash flooding in Shepton Mallet, near Glastonbury, when up to 30mm of rain fell in two hours. The EA has deployed pumps to the area.

There are currently five EA flood warnings in place, in the South West and the Midlands, and 23 flood alerts across the country.

The Met Office has issued amber warnings for severe weather across swathes of Britain.

Craig Woolhouse, head of flood incident management at the EA, said: "The combination of saturated land, high river levels and further forecasts of deluges of rain mean people must remain vigilant."

Paul Knightley, forecaster at Meteo Group, the Press Association's weather division, said the area around Christchurch, near the Dorset coast, saw about 52mm of rain in just three hours today.

He said the rain would start to ease off until tomorrow evening, but further showers could bring up to 20mm of rain tomorrow night, creating more risk of flooding.

The forecaster said: "The showers and thunderstorms that are there now, they will start to clear away.

"It is mostly dry throughout the night but there will be more rain tomorrow evening and quite heavy rain tomorrow night.

"It is more than enough to cause some issues on top of today's rain."

Mr Knightley said the heavy rain will start moving into the South West, South Wales, and the West Midlands tomorrow.

The rest of the country saw scattered showers today and flood-hit northern regions are starting to see the rains subside.

He said: "The rain in the north should start to peter out tonight and it will be cloudy with a few showers across northern areas tomorrow.

"Most places should have a reasonable day tomorrow. We are not talking about summer heat or anything like that but it will not be too bad.

"Temperatures could reach around 20C (68F) in London and the south before it begins to rain in the evening and in northern areas it will be closer to 15C (59F)."

Police said that flash flooding in Somerset had left cars stranded and roads under water.

A storm early this morning resulted in 30mm of rain - more than half the monthly average for July - falling on a small area in less than 15 minutes.

Avon and Somerset Police said four houses and the pub in the village of Croscombe, near Shepton Mallet, were flooded.

All 113 pupils at Bowlish Infants School were evacuated because of the threat of flood water.

The fire service said around 20 properties in the Wells and Shepton Mallet areas were also evacuated as a precaution.

"The speed and localised nature of the event meant there was no time for the Environment Agency to warn residents," a police spokeswoman said.

"Emergency services and Environment Agency teams were already on standby following the recent heavy rainfall so were able to respond quickly once the severity of the situation became known."

The Environment Agency has issued a flood warning for the River Sheppey at Shepton Mallet and Croscombe and a lower level flood alert for nearby east Somerset rivers.

"This kind of localised event is difficult to predict but is devastating when it happens," said John Rowlands, of the Environment Agency.

"It's important in this situation that people should not attempt to drive or walk through the flood water.

"Our teams have been hard pressed this week already and we're doing all we can to contain the situation and prevent it getting worse."

Meanwhile, the Olympic flame route in Dorset tomorrow, Friday and Saturday could be affected by the threat of flooding, the county council said.

Angus Campbell, chairman of Dorset's Olympic Board, said: "All Dorset agencies are working very closely with the Met Office and the Environment Agency so that we can make decisions as quickly as possible on the route the Olympic flame will take.

"Our intention, where possible, is to use the published route but we have alternatives in place if the weather causes further difficulties."