A ‘perfect storm’ of heavy downpours and melting snow could flood hundreds of homes across the UK this weekend, experts have warned.
Storm Dennis is set to hammer large swathes of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with 70mph winds, with up to 140mm (5.5inches) of rain falling over some areas.
The Environment Agency (EA) say flooding is likely to be worse than last weekend’s Storm Ciara due to rain falling on already saturated ground.
John Curtin, the agency’s executive director of flood and coastal risk management, said: ‘This one (storm) could be a step up from what we have seen before. We had a big storm last weekend, (we now have) saturated catchments, snowmelt and rainfall, so it is a perfect storm.’
Paul Davies, principle meteorologist at the Met Office, said much of the UK can expect to see between 20mm and 40mm of rainfall over the weekend, with some areas possibly getting up to 80mm.
He said 140mm isn’t ‘impossible’ over the Welsh and Scottish highlands.
The ‘main areas of concern’ on Saturday are north and south-west England, and Wales, followed by south east England on Sunday.
Storm Ciara, which hit the UK on Sunday, left 800 properties flooded in England alone, according to the EA.
Mr Curtin said the snow which fell is likely to melt as the rain from Storm Dennis arrives on Saturday.
As of 2.30pm on Friday there were 12 flood warnings, meaning it is ‘expected’, and 97 flood alerts, meaning that flooding is possible, in place across the country.
Mr Curtin said areas will get about eight hours warning ahead of any deluges over the weekend and urged people to sign up to the agency’s flood warning system.
He added that areas along the River Severn in Shropshire and River Ouse in North Yorkshire could feel the brunt of the rain across Monday and Tuesday.
Mr Davies said: ‘With Ciara the rain was heavy, but swept through. The concern with Dennis is the longevity of the rainfall.’
Since the beginning of last September, the agency has issued 1,470 flood warnings in England alone and eight severe flood warnings.
Mr Curtin said about a quarter of the agency’s 400 river gauges – used to measure water levels – have broken their highest-ever record in the past 10 years.
He added that just under 10 per cent of the agency’s gauges had recorded their highest-ever water levels this winter alone.
Mr Curtin said: ‘One of the trends we are seeing, which is really quite worrying, is how frequently we are seeing weather records being broken.’
Figures from the agency show 2012 was the wettest-ever period from April to June, while 2013/2014 saw the wettest winter in 250 years.
Meanwhile, in December 2015, a new 24-hour rainfall record was set for the UK, when 341.4mm (13 inches) fell at Honister Pass in the Lake District.
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