UK weather: More flooding and disruption expected as latest storm hits Britain

Heavy rain and gales to sweep across country today as temperatures drop below freezing

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The Independent Online

Forecasters have warned of a new storm bringing more disruption and flooding, just as the UK looked set to recover from a string of bad Christmas weather.

Heavy rain and strong winds swept in from the Atlantic and are making their way across Britain from west to east today, with gales of up to 80mph affecting Wales, southern, western and northern England and Scotland.

The Met Office has issued a number of severe weather warnings, with an upgraded “amber” rain alert issued for southwest Scotland, advising the public to “be prepared” for flooding.

The Environment Agency (EA) has around 100 flood alerts in place in southern, western and northern England, as most areas expect 20 to 30mm of rain falling on already saturated ground.

Into the evening, the wet conditions will combine with plunging temperatures to make for dangerous ice patches in the south west.

George Goodfellow, a forecaster for MeteoGroup, said: “Normally, we would say this is a typical winter storm but because we're still recovering from a string of other storms it is likely to cause more disruption and flooding.”

He added that the south west will continue to bear the brunt of the storm.

Looking ahead, the Met Office also issued a severe weather warning for another storm set to arrive on New Year's Day, with heavy rain affecting southern England and western Scotland.

Some 1,300 properties have been flooded so far during the December storms, the EA said.

Meanwhile, last night engineers finally restored power to the last of the homes that were still cut off over Christmas.

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) tweeted last night: “Engineers have this evening reconnected those who lost power due to the severe weather damage.”

Energy companies have been criticised for their slow reaction to storm damage, and Basil Scarsella, chief executive of the UK Power Networks, admitted to The Mail on Sunday it was not prepared for the storm and too many staff were on holiday.

Mr Scarsella said: “We could not have avoided the damage caused by the storm but we could have responded to it better.

“A lot of our employees had gone away for holidays so it meant we had a level of depletion in our resources - and that caused problems with getting people's power restored.”

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said he has pressed energy companies to stop staff taking New Year’s holidays as a second week of storms looks set to derail the festive period.

Speaking on ITV's Daybreak programme, he said: “I think some of them (energy companies) definitely let their customers down, and I'm pleased to hear they are going to pay some compensation to those who are out of power.

“We've had two Cobra (the Government's emergency committee) meetings over the last couple of days and we've made it very clear that we expect them to take proper measures - not to let staff go away on holiday over the new year period and to be properly prepared for this week.”