UK weather: South England and Wales braced for heavy rain, high tides and wild weather

Up to 30mm of rain is expected today amid fears of coastal flooding, high tides and strong winds across the southern and western areas of England and Wales

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The Independent Online

It never rains but it pours - a sentiment residents in Somerset may feel all too familiar with as communities brace themselves for another downpour and potentially more flooding.

The Somerset Levels have been dubbed the "boat islands" by residents currently experiencing the most significant floods for two decades in the area, so significant that the military was drafted in on Wednesday to meet with council officials and discuss delivering food and supplies and transporting people in and out of the area.

Teams from the Environment Agency (EA) have been running dozens of pumps 24 hours a day to drain an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of water - equivalent to 600 Olympic-sized swimming pools - off the Levels.

Today, a combination of rain, high tides and strong winds means there is a further “strong risk” of flooding in coastal areas.

The EA has issued over 40 flood warnings – where immediate action is required – across England and Wales, alongside 163 flood alerts. Meanwhile, The Met Office has issued its own warnings of heavy rain and gale force winds of up to 60mph for many southern and western areas until tomorrow.

The warnings come after January was crowned the wettest on record for some parts of England as rainfall broke records and the Met Office warned there is more to come.

UK flooding: January rainfall breaks records for parts of England

The army currently remains on standby should the situation in Somerset worsen, after the council decided current needs are being adequately met by the fire service and the British Red Cross. Pat Flaherty, Somerset County Council deputy chief executive, said last night the Army had been providing much-welcomed advice and operational support.

He said: "The military have come in at short notice, worked with our teams to assess what's needed and what's required and the fire service has met that need through its national specialist vehicles and trained staff.

"With potential flooding coming up over the weekend and flooding ongoing for weeks ahead, we now have any military help and support very much on call.

UK floods: Army deployed to Somerset Levels as military planners and specialist vehicles provide support to victims

A spokesperson for the Met Office said a band of heavy rain will sweep across the south West, west Wales and southern England today. "We can certainly expect between 20mm to 30mm (0.8 to 1.2 inches) set to fall across many parts, plus additional showers coming through which could add the odd millimetre," the spokesman said.

"For the coast itself there is the potential for severe gales of 50 to 60 mph, which could also create some big waves."

The EA also said high tides will leave coastal areas in the south west at risk of flooding, and parts of south-east England, the north west and Yorkshire and Hull coast will also be affected by the wind, rain and high tides in the next few days.

Flood barriers have been erected at Frankwell in Shrewsbury to protect against a rise in river levels on the Severn after heavy rain in Shropshire on Tuesday, and temporary defences are also set to be built at Bewdley on the Severn.

In Wales, students in seafront halls of residence at Aberystwyth University are being evacuated from today until 4pm on Monday as a precaution.

On Wednesday Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said that dredging would be carried out on the Levels as soon as it is safe to do so.

Speaking after a meeting last night of Cobra, the Government's emergency committee, Mr Paterson said he hoped a 20-year plan to deal with flooding in the Levels would be agreed sooner than the six-week deadline he had specified, the BBC said.

Additional reporting by Press Association