UK Floods – Storm Desmond Dumps Record Rain, 1 Dead After Severe Flooding in Cumbria

Parts of northern England have seen severe flooding after rain brought by Storm Desmond between 04 and 05 December 2015. Thousands have been forced from their homes and one person has died in the floods.

Initial rainfall estimates suggest that over 340 mm of rain fell in 24 hours in Honister, Cumbria, which according to the Environment Agency, would be a new British record if verified.

Fatalities

Earlier today the BBC reported that the body of a man who went missing after falling into the overflowing River Kent near Kendal has been found by local police.

In a statement made earlier today, Cumbria Police said:

“A body has been found in the search of the River Kent, Kendal. Police were called at 10.01am yesterday (December 6th) to reports than an elderly man had fallen in the water.

“Officers, along with the Underwater Search Team, are working to recover the body which has been located in the Kendal area”.

Another fatality was reported in London as a result of strong winds brought by Storm Desmond. The man was believed to have been blown into the side of a moving bus by a gust of wind in north London.

Cumbria Floods

By far the worst affected area was the county of Cumbria in north west England, the location of the Lake District, the popular tourist area.

The flooding was so severe across the county that authorities in Cumbria declared a “major incident” status. Around 350 army personnel, along with fire and rescue services from other areas of England were drafted in to help with rescues, evacuations and building temporary flood defences.

Around 1,000 people have been evacuated and 8 rescue centres are providing accommodation for those forced to leave their homes. The River Eden in Carlisle reached a record 7.9 metres over the weekend.

Cumbria Police issued warnings for people and drivers to stay away from flood water and for those not requiring evacuation to stay indoors.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said via Twitter:

“The thoughts of the country are with the people in Cumbria and the NW hit by flooding. The Govt is doing everything it can to help them.”

He also announced on Twitter that the army had been deployed to help those affected by the floods and a crisis response meeting (COBRA) had been set up to coordinate government actions in response to the flooding.

Floods in Carlisle, December 2015
Floods in Carlisle, Cumbria, England, December 2015. Photo: Cumbria Police
Floods in Cumbria, December 2015
Floods in Carlisle, Cumbria, England, December 2015. Photo: Cumbria Police

Transport Hit

Cumbria police have confirmed that three bridges in the county have been “washed away” by the floods: the B5295 bridge at Braithwaite, Fitz Footbridge in Keswick, and Pooley Bridge in the Eden District.

A further 14 bridges have also been damaged and were closed until full assessments could be carried out.
The floods in Carlisle and across parts of Cumbria submerged the main railway line between London and Glasgow. Virgin Trains announced that services between Preston and Carlisle were suspended until later today (Monday 07 December 2015).

Many schools in the area are expected to remain closed today as a result of flooding, power and water cuts.

Power and Water Supplies

Almost 60,000 homes in the Lancashire and Cumbria counties in north-western England were left without power on Sunday as the floods damaged sub-stations and caused electrical faults.

Electricity North West said that it had managed to restore power to thousands of homes by the evening. A statement made by Electricity North West on Sunday said.

“Engineers are working round the clock in shifts to repair damage caused to the area’s main substation which flooded on Saturday night. The remaining 40,000 properties should be restored by re-energising the substation by Monday evening.”

Water supplies in a number of towns in Cumbria were also affected by flood water.

The 2005 and 2009 Cumbria Floods and New Flood Defences

Cumbria saw severe flooding in 2005 and 2009. Three people died in floods in Carlisle in January 2005 when 175mm of rain fell in just 36 hours. The town of Keswick was devastated by floods in 2005 and 2009.

Flood defences have been improved in both locations. A new, £6 million flood defence system including gates and barriers was completed in Keswick in September 2012.

A £38m flood defence scheme including raised defences, new pumping stations, flood gates, raised footbridges and CCTV cameras was completed in Carlisle in 2010.

About the Storm Desmond floods, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

“Flood defences protected 8,600 homes across the north of England and, in thousands of other instances, provided vital time for homes and businesses to be evacuated as well as reducing the impact. However, unprecedented rain and river levels mean we have seen water overtopping defences in places”.

Parts of Cumbria saw some flooding last month, which saw the new flood defences come into operation.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

Southern areas of Scotland also saw heavy rainfall over the weekend. The Scottish Borders town of Hawick was badly hit after the River Teviot overflowed. Several homes had to be evacuated as a result.

Over 20 people were rescued by emergency services after flooding affected parts of Northern Ireland. Counties Tyrone, Londonderry and Fermanagh were reported as worst affected.

Ireland

Storm Desmond also brought flooding and power cuts to parts of Ireland, according to local media there. Flooding was reported in Bandon in County Cork, Craughwell in County Galway, and Tralee in County Kerry, which, according to the Irish Times, was almost cut off early yesterday, with most of the main roads into the town flooded. The Army was called in to assist with vehicles and personnel, alongside the Civil Defence and county council workers.

Further Rain and Flood Warnings for England

The rain and heavy winds from Storm Desmond have since subsided, although the UK Met Office has issued “yellow weather warnings” (lowest level) for the rest of the coming week and forecast “persistent rain” in the north west of England, south west Scotland and parts of Northern Ireland.

A yellow level warning means residents in affected areas need to be aware that there may be a risk presented by the severe weather. However, in areas where heavy rain has already fallen, further persistent rainfall may mean there could be a risk of flooding from overflowing rivers.

According to the Environment Agency, as of early Monday 07 December 2015, there are 46 severe flood warnings in England and Wales. A sever flood warning represents a risk where there is a “danger to life”.

Nearly all the severe flood warnings are for areas in north west England, in particular around Carlisle, Cockermouth and Keswick. There are also 38 flood warnings and 39 flood alerts.

See the website here for more details about flood warnings in England and Wales, or call the UK Environment Agency’s FloodLine on 0345 988 1188.

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