Jan 30 2014
Parts of England are facing new flood misery this weekend, as high tides and strong winds are set to put coastal areas at risk.
Gales and big waves could swamp coastal flood defences and sea walls, flood properties and cause travel disruption, the Environment Agency has warned.
Another band of heavy rain could also cause more flooding as it falls on already saturated ground, and the Environment Agency currently has 35 flood warnings in place across the country.
The latest poor weather conditions come at the end of a month which has already become the wettest January on record for parts of southern England.
In the Somerset Levels, the situation is so bad the Army has been deployed to bring relief to villages cut off by the most significant floods for 20 years. Some 40 properties have flooded on the Levels, the Environment Agency said.
And the west of England is facing further of risk of flooding, as wind and rain sweeps in and combine with high tides this weekend.
Coastal and tidal areas of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire are all at an increased risk of flooding, the Environment Agency said.
The rest of Gloucestershire, 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.
The risk of river flooding continues with the ground already saturated, and flood barriers have been put up at Frankwell in Shrewsbury to protect against a rise in river levels on the Severn after 5cm (2 inches) of rain fell in Shropshire on Tuesday.
Temporary defences are also set to be erected at Bewdley on the Severn.
The Met Office is warning of a band of heavy rain sweeping the country tomorrow, with 20mm to 30mm (0.8 to 1.2 inches) set to fall across many parts and as much as 40mm (1.6 inches) on high ground.
Over the weekend, winds of up to 50mph to 60mph are set to hit the country, which combined with spring tides could see western coastal areas battered by large waves.
It comes at the end of an unusually wet January for the UK. A spokesman for the Met Office said: "For the UK as a whole, 164.6mm (6.5 inches) of rain has fallen so far this month, 35% above the long-term average, with all nations having above average rainfall."
South-east and central southern England received more than twice its average rainfall, with a record 175.2mm (6.9 inches) falling between January 1 and 28.
The rainfall across south-west England and South Wales reached 222.6mm (8.8 inches) in the same period, making January 2014 the fifth wettest in the records dating back to 1910.
The weather has left some areas badly hit by flooding, with 65 square kilometres of the Somerset Levels swamped.
The Army has been drafted in to help villages cut off by the floods and sp ecialist vehicles are being brought in so troops can deliver food to stricken villagers, transport people and deliver sandbags.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who met with an angry response when he visited Somerset earlier this week, made the announcement about Army intervention after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged rapid action to deal with the crisis.
Mr Cameron promised that dredging of rivers would start as soon as water is reduced to a safe level.
Environment Agency (EA) teams 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.
The EA has come under fire from MPs and local councils over the situation in the Somerset Levels, where concerns have been raise over underinvestment in flood defence work and calls for urgent dredging of rivers to prevent more damage.
But the agency insists that increased dredging of the rivers would not have prevented the recent flooding and was "often not the best long-term or economic solution".
Flooding experts have also warned that dredging would not have helped the situation, suggesting that doubling the capacity of every drainage channel in Somerset would have still seen large parts flood as a result of the amount of rain.
In Muchelney, which is one of the villages cut off on the Somerset Levels, residents have been trying to carry on with their lives as normally as possible, despite being cut off since Christmas.
Local resident Nigel Smith was making use of a taxi boat operated by the fire brigade, and said the level of response was now "terrific".
Mr Smith described the issue of dredging the Somerset Levels as "complicated" but said if it reduced the water levels by only a couple of inches, it was worth it.
"It's a complicated subject and I think a lot of it to do with the dredging and sending the Army in is largely a political statement to satisfy people's justifiable complaints," he said.
"The dredging will help a little bit but that's all we need - a little bit."
He added: "Dredging would lower the flooding by an inch or two and that's all we really need to save those people in the village that have flooded."
In Wales, officials at Aberystwyth University are evacuating students living at halls of residence along the seafront from tomorrow until 4pm on Monday as a precautionary measure. Teaching tomorrow and on Monday has been cancelled.
The email said alternative accommodation would be provided for students and gave a 24-hour emergency telephone number for students.
Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole said: "We know our weather is set to get wilder and more extreme as climate change bites.
"Despite the mounting evidence of climate change, the Government has allowed a half-billion-pound hole to open up in our flood defences over the past four years, leaving tens of thousands of homes vulnerable.
"No more excuses: the Prime Minister needs to properly prepare the country for climate change, not just promise last-minute quick-fixes."