UK Floods – Rising River Levels Leave 1000s of Homes at Risk in Yorkshire and Lancashire

Parts of northern England have suffered more flooding after 2 days of heavy rain. In the last 24 hours, the River Aire in Leeds, Yorkshire, has reached record levels. December has been the wettest on record in the county of Cumbria.

Following heavy rainfall over the last 2 days, the UK Environment Agency has issued 27 severe flood warnings, which indicate a danger to life, as of early 27 December 2015. There were also 170 flood warnings and 137 flood alerts in force in England and Wales. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has issued 6 flood warnings and 5 flood alerts, mostly in Tayside and the Borders area.

Northern England suffered devastating flooding in early December after torrential rain brought by Storm Desmond. That time the county of Cumbria was the worst affected. Over the last 2 days flooding has mainly affected parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire. Parts of North Wales, including Bangor, have also seen some flooding in the last 2 days.

There are currently severe flood warnings in place for 7 areas along the River Calder in West Yorkshire and at least 9 locations along the River Aire including the city of Leeds. Environment Agency officials said that the River Aire reached record levels late on 26 December in Armley, a district in the west of Leeds.

Levels of the River Aire in Leeds. Image: Environment Agency
Levels of the River Aire in Leeds. Image: Environment Agency

Severe warnings are in place in York for areas near the River Foss, Osbaldwick Beck and Tang Hall Beck. Flooding on roads in North Yorkshire has been so widespread that North Yorkshire police say they have run out of road closed signs.

In Lancashire, parts of the town of St Michaels are once again threatened by the rising River Wyre. Areas of Greater Manchester, including Salford, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale and Wigan, have also been affected by flooding. A 200-year-old pub, The Waterside at Summerseat, Greater Manchester, has collapsed and part of it has been swept away by the River Irwell. The river is also threatening to overflow in parts of central Manchester.

Military Called in

Teams from the Environment Agency, emergency services and the military have been working around the clock to keep flood damage to a minimum.

Alison Baptiste, Flood Duty Manager at the Environment Agency, said yesterday that “Environment Agency staff have been working around the clock throughout Christmas with our emergency response partners and the help of the military in Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire to help reduce the potential impacts of flooding and support those communities affected.”

Prime Minister David Cameron announced via Twitter that there will be an emergency meeting of the UK’s crisis response committee (COBRA). He said “My thoughts are with people whose homes have been flooded. I’ll chair a COBRA call tomorrow to ensure everything is being done to help.”

Evacuations in York

Police have advised around 100s people to evacuate from homes in York after parts of the River Ouse and River Foss overflowed. The BBC says that vulnerable people are being evacuated from 2,200 homes in York.

Of major concern is the area around the Foss Barrier where the Foss meets the River Ouse. Environment Agency officials said late yesterday, 26 December, that flood “waters entered Foss Barrier building which could cause electrical failure. We’ve lifted the barrier so if electric goes off the barrier won’t be in the down position”. This means that areas that would usually be protected were now vulnerable to flooding including Huntington,Tang Hall, Osbaldwick and Foss Islands.

The Environment Agency said the River Ouse’s water level had reached 4.65m early on 27 December 2015. It is likely that it will reach 5 metres some time today, 27 December 2015, according to local council officials. The record level is 5.40 metres. In November 2000 York experienced the highest river level on the River Ouse since records began in 1625, reaching a height of 5.4m above its normal summer level. York has 2.5 miles of flood defences, which were constructed between 1985 and 1995. The defences are designed to withstand river levels of up to 5.45m above normal summer levels and have never been breached.

York City council said in a statement today that provisions are in place across multi-agencies following overwhelming river levels for the Foss and Ouse. The statement continued:

“Representatives are working 24/7 from City of York Council, the Environment Agency, North Yorkshire Police, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, Northern Powergrid and Yorkshire Water.

The Military are due to arrive in York at 6am. Armed Forces staff will be deployed to the council’s Hazel Court depot to support the flood protection work (sand bagging), They will also be deployed to Cawood (Selby) and will be supporting the police on the evacuation of properties”.

Severe Flood Warnings Mean a Risk to Life

Alison Baptiste, Flood Duty Manager at the Environment Agency, stressed that severe flood warnings mean there is a threat to life. She said yesterday that:

“… we have issued several severe flood warnings meaning a risk to life, we urge people to check their flood risk, prepare for flooding, follow advice from emergency services and never to risk driving through flood water”.

See the Environment Agency’s map of flood warnings in England and Wales here or call their helpline on 0345 988 1188 for further information. Flood updates for Scotland are available here.

Wettest December on Record in Cumbria

The UK Met Office confirmed that this will be the wettest December on record for Cumbria since records began in 1910. Since 1 December many areas in Cumbria have experienced more than two and a half times their expected monthly rainfall. In early December, Storm Desmond brought the highest amount of rainfall seen in England for a 24 hour period.

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