EFAS Sent Early Warnings of Major Floods in UK and Ireland

Storm Desmond, an active European windstorm, brought strong winds and heavy rain to Ireland and the UK over the past weekend, causing severe flooding, disruption and three reported fatalities. The European Flood Awareness System (EFAS), which is part of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS), sent flood warnings from 1 December 2015 onwards, indicating a high potential of severe flooding in the UK and Ireland for the weekend 5-6 December 2015.

The storm caused flooding, power outages, damage to buildings, crops and livestock, and forced the cancellation of flights, sailings, rail services and sports fixtures in both countries. Two elderly men are reported to have lost their lives due to being swept away by the floods, and another due to being swept into a bus by the high winds. Firefighters were also called out to rescue several people trapped by the floods. The Copernicus Emergency Management Rapid Mapping Service was consequently activated to produce maps of some of the affected areas of the UK and Ireland to show the impact and assist in the management of the damage due to the floods.

The heavy rainfall caused severe floods in many parts of Ireland, particularly in Kerry, Cork, Clare, Donegal and Connacht. Parts of northern England, southern Scotland and North Wales also experienced record-breaking flooding. More than 43 000 homes across the north of England were left without power, as were 2 000 homes in Ireland and around 700 in Wales.

Many areas of Ireland and the UK are still under high alert as further heavy rainfall is forecast for the coming week, which could hamper recovery efforts. Heavy rains on 9 December led to further flooding in areas such as Cumbria in the UK. The Irish Defence Forces deployed troops to the west and midlands as the country’s high-risk areas get set for the worst flooding in 20 years. Properties along the River Shannon, which burst its banks in Westmeath on 9 December, remain under serious threat of flooding as waters continue to surge. Emergency drinking water points have been set up by the Red Cross in some midland areas.

Storm Desmond is the fourth named storm of the 2015–16 UK and Ireland windstorm season. As a result of a strong atmospheric river feeding into the system, Desmond brought exceptionally heavy rainfall to Ireland, northern England, southern Scotland and north Wales, causing record-breaking flooding in places.

EFAS Early Flood Warning

EFAS sent out flood notifications to its partners in the UK and Ireland (the UK Met Office, the UK Environment Agency and the Office of Public Works in Ireland) from 1 December 2015 onwards, indicating a high potential of severe flooding in the UK and Ireland for the weekend 5-6 December. On 4 and 5 December, the meteorological authorities in Ireland and the UK issued red warnings of extreme rainfall events in the west coast of Ireland, north-western England and south-western Scotland. Other parts of the Ireland and the UK received amber, orange and red warnings, with some issuing flood warnings.

Featured Image: Floods in River Shannon basin, courtesy of Defence Forces Ireland