UK on flood alert as deluge predicted


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The Independent Online

Large parts of England and Wales are on flood alert tonight after a month's worth of rain was predicted to fall in just 24 hours.

The deluge is expected to batter the north west of England with heavy rain and high winds lasting until Sunday, experts warn.

The news comes as a one-day cricket match was cancelled and hundreds of music fans were forced to sleep in their cars in traffic which became gridlocked as the rain turned the Isle of Wight Festival into a mudbath.

The North East, North West, Wales, and South West will bear the brunt of the adverse weather, with several flood alerts already in place and more predicted.

Forecasters at the Met Office have issued a severe weather warning for parts of Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Lancashire, with 2in to 2.4in (50mm-60mm) of rain expected across much of the area.

Three flood warnings are currently in place, two in Lancaster and one in High Bentham, North Yorkshire, with 28 alerts in place across the North West.

Environment Agency spokeswoman Kate Marks said: "A month's rain is predicted to fall in the North West in the next 24 hours.

"We would urge the public to remain vigilant and prepared for flooding, especially as river levels can rise very quickly.

"People can check the Environment Agency website and Twitter feed for the latest updates and flood warnings for rivers."

A number of localised flash floods have already caused problems for householders in Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue service said firefighters had been called to Chatburn, near Clitheroe, after four homes were flooded as a result of surface road water, and a home in Newhall Road, Preston, was also affected.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue service said 14 homes in Beresford Street, Wigan had flooded, with water up to waist height in places.

The Olympic torch relay was also hit by the weather with organisers being forced to cancel an outdoor event in Blackpool.

Chris Burton, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "The heaviest rain has been over northern England, particularly in Cumbria, Northern Ireland, and north-west Wales.

"Quite widely over the north west of England we've seen about 25mm-30mm (1in-1.2in), and higher ground in Cumbria has seen in excess of 50mm (2in).

"The low pressure that is over us that is encouraging the rain is going to linger across Scotland and rain will continue over much of Scotland and northern England tomorrow, but central and southern areas of England and Wales should begin to dry up overnight.

"In northern England the rain will, however, continue overnight and we could see another 20mm (0.8in) in some places.

"Some areas in the last 24 hours have seen 60mm-70mm (2.4in-2.7in) and with the rain continuing it's possible that we could see 100mm (4in) in some locations by the time the wet weather moves on."

The Environment Agency said it had mobilised teams across the North West to check and operate flood defences, clear any river blockages and closely monitor river levels.

The public are urged to remain vigilant and check the Environment Agency website and Twitter feed for updates and warnings, with a number of further flood alerts and serious warnings expected.

People are being advised to stay away from swollen rivers and not drive through floodwater.

Holidaymakers visiting caravan and camping sites across the North West are being warned to be prepared to take action in the event of flooding and festival-goers are being advised to take extra caution and consult with event organisers before setting out.

Among those revellers already affected by the heavy rain were music lovers heading for the Isle of Wight Festival taking place this weekend.

Hundreds were forced to sleep in their cars, with the resultant queues causing ferry companies to suspend their services. About 600 people were stranded last night on ferries on the Solent as the cars could not be disembarked because of traffic build-up on the island.

Firefighters in North Yorkshire said they responded to more than 25 flooding calls as a wave of heavy rain moved across the county last night.

Police in West Yorkshire were investigating whether "awful" weather conditions were responsible for a crash on the A1 last night, in which two officers were injured.

However, as parts of England and Wales prepare for another night of heavy rain and high winds the Met Office said southern areas may well continue to see some dry and bright weather on Saturday.

Residents were ferried out of their homes after heavy rainfall clogged drains in Beresford Street, Wigan.

Paul Duggan, from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said firefighters were working to clear the floodwater from the area.

He said: "Firefighters at the scene have asked for a second high volume pump to deal with the level of the water and they have used a boat to assist three people and one dog from their properties."

It is believed the flooding occurred after a drain underneath the Leeds-Liverpool canal was overwhelmed by rain.