No respite from the wet weather, say forecasters
The worst of the weather may have passed but forecasters are warning there will be no respite from the wet weather this week as flood-hit communities across the UK count the cost of recent torrential downpours.
Many homes were left under water over the weekend and one driver died when his car left the road after a month's worth of rain fell in just 24 hours in many parts of the country.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman yesterday met flood victims in Devon, where a huge clean-up operation was under way after the area saw the worst of the bad weather.
Matt Dobson, senior forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said England and Wales were unlikely to see any sunny weather during the next 10 days, although the forecast for today was more promising.
Mr Dobson said: "Today we are looking at more scattered showers but it should be a little bit better than it has been over the past few days.
"Looking ahead it is a very unsettled week with no respite from the wet weather.
"There will be heavy downpours tomorrow and Thursday, particularly across England and Wales, and no sign of any sunny weather for the next 10 days."
Mr Dobson said scattered heavy showers were affecting east Wales and the West Midlands, with heavy thunderstorms over Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
Heavy showers will hit London and the south coast today, and there will be a risk of thunderstorms over central and eastern England, he said.
The Environment Agency still has 89 flood alerts and 14 flood warnings in place, but the Met Office has no weather warnings currently issued for the UK.
But there is one piece of good news - the incessant rain has finally spelled the end of the hosepipe ban.
The final four water companies with bans announced they are lifting them with immediate effect.
South East Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water, Veolia Water Central and Veolia Water Southeast said the restrictions that have been in place since early April have now ended following the "abnormally heavy rainfall" that has deluged much of the country.
A joint statement from the four companies said they were heavily dependent on ground water supplies but these have now recovered sufficiently to enable them to lift the bans.
It said: "The companies would all like to thank their customers for complying with the restrictions and supporting their plea to use water wisely. This has kept demand for water well below levels normally experienced at this time of year.
"Significant - or indeed any - recharge of underground resources at this time of year is most unusual but it follows the abnormally heavy rainfall experienced since spring which has finally brought to an end the severe drought after two dry winters."
Ms Spelman spoke of the importance of flood prevention schemes during a visit to Ottery St Mary, near Exeter, which had a number of defences put in place after previous flooding.
One of the culverts she was taken to protected 60 nearby properties from water entering their homes.
Resident Elizabeth Nickels, 62, who spoke to Ms Spelman about the flooding, said they had been incredibly lucky that the flood prevention scheme had been completed just weeks ago.
She said: "The water was coming off East Hill in absolute torrents and they were absolutely unable to get in and out of that part of the town.
"So we were so much luckier on this side of the town, I mean the defence worked, and thank goodness for it, when you think it's only been finished a few weeks it was exactly at the right time."
The Environment Secretary also spoke about how important social media had become as a way of warning residents as she thanked staff at the Met Office in Exeter for the work they have been doing to warn people about the bad weather.
Philip and Nolwenn Luke told Ms Spelman that the Environment Agency's early warning text message system had allowed them to move their car to safety before the floods hit.
Ms Spelman said she had been given assurances that all Olympic sites would be resilient to floods after flooding at a park-and-ride car park in Weymouth, Dorset, which will be used to transport spectators to sailing events.
Elsewhere, firefighters had to be airlifted to safety by a coastguard helicopter when they became trapped by flood water while rescuing a flock of drowning sheep in Somerset, an RSPCA spokeswoman said.
The animals were stranded by rising water near a railway line at Batemans Farm in Chard, but were eventually rescued by RSPCA inspectors using a boat.
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