UK on flood alert over Christmas

Free Press Series: UK on flood alert over Christmas UK on flood alert over Christmas

HEAVY showers could bring more flooding woes for parts of rain-battered Britain this Christmas, as the country braces itself for one of its wettest years in history.

Hundreds of homes and businesses have been swamped with floodwaters, from the southern-most parts of Cornwall to the Highlands of Scotland as winter rains fall across a land that is saturated to bursting point.

The Environment Agency (EA) said widespread showers meant many places remain on flood alert despite persistent rain expected to ease by Christmas Day.

An EA spokeswoman said: "While the worse of the weather is behind us, the risk of flooding continues with rain falling on already saturated ground.

"As a result, flood warnings and alerts will remain in place for much of the week ahead.

"This is because river levels remain high and sensitive to further rain fall.’’ The rivers Severn, Trent, Avon and Thames are most at risk of flooding, the EA said.

The Met Office has issued an amber weather warning - its second highest alert - for south west England, with up to 30mm of rain expected to fall in some places today.

Forecasters have warned of more heavy showers overnight, bringing further flood risks on ground that is already saturated from torrential downpours in the last few days.

The Met Office said the wettest place in the UK since the heavy rain began last week was Tyndrum in Perthshire with 6.1in (155mm).

Cardinham, near Bodmin in Cornwall, is the wettest place in England with 5.1in (128.8 mm) of rain and the wettest place in Wales has been Mumbles Head in West Glamorgan with 4.2in (107mm) of rain.

Ballypatrick Forest in Antrim has been the wettest place in Northern Ireland, with 3.5in (89mm) of rain.

Some areas have exceeded their full-month December average since December 19 - such as Plymouth, which has seen 5.1in (128.8mm) of rain compared with a December average of 4.7in (118.8 mm).

Lower-level yellow weather warnings have also been issued for much of southern England and Wales.

Meteogroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said showers were likely to continue across most of the UK on Christmas Day, providing little respite for the flood-hit south west of England.

Gareth Harvey, forecaster at Meteogroup, said: "The rain is still falling over the south west of England and stretching into most of Wales. It looks like this will gradually push northwards so that much of the UK sees spells of rain today.

"The rain across south west England should ease off by this afternoon but the showery theme continues overnight.

"The rain won't be as persistent as we've seen overnight and today but any rain is not going to help matters.

"Temperatures will be around 10C(50F) or 11C (51.8F) on Christmas in the southern half of the UK. It will be a bit chillier across the northern half at around 6C(42.8F) or 7C(44.6F).

Britain is now set for one of its wettest years ever, the Met Office said.

The UK's average rainfall in 2012, excluding December, is 1,202mm - placing it 13th in the list of wettest years since records began in 1910.

Forecasters said December's deluge of rain meant that this year was now likely to finish among the country's highest rainfall totals on record.

The year 2000 remains the UK's wettest year, with an average rainfall of 1,337.3mm.

The EA has removed the severe flood warning - meaning there is "danger to life’’ - for the River Cober at Helston in west Cornwall, a town that has already seen residents evacuated from their homes.

However there are still 129 flood warnings in place, urging people to take immediate action, across the UK, the majority in the Midlands and the South West, and a further 258 flood alerts.

Some 470 properties have flooded since Wednesday, while 111,000 warnings have been sent to people at risk of flooding.

Floodline has received 18,000 calls during the recent wet weather, while 27,000 properties have been protected by EA flood defences.

Scotland has also been badly affected, with floods and high winds battering the east coast over the weekend.

Flood warnings were issued for Aberdeenshire, Caithness and Sutherland, Dundee and Angus, Tayside and the Borders, with further outbreaks of rain expected across the country today.

The rain is forecast to gradually clear eastern Scotland in the evening.

Up to 100 properties were vacated as a result of the flooding in Stonehaven, with a rest centre set up at Mackie Academy to keep the victims safe and warm.

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