UK – Evacuations and Rescues After Storm Henk Leaves Widespread Flooding

Heavy rain from consecutive storms, most recently Storm Henk, has left wide areas of the United Kingdom under water once again. Dozens of people have been rescued from vehicles trapped in flood waters. Firefighters and police have also carried out evacuations in parts of Northamptonshire and Worcestershire.

Ground has been saturated for some time across the UK following a series of winter storms. Storm Henk comes just days after Storm Gerrit hit in late December 2023. Storm Babet flooded thousands of homes in October 2023.

Flooding in Northampton UK following Storm Henk in January 2024. Photo: Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service

Storm Gerrit

In the last days of 2023, parts of Scotland and northern England suffered as a result of strong winds and heavy rain brought by Storm Gerrit.

Several roads were closed in North Yorkshire where flooding and severe weather were blamed for the deaths of 3 people trapped in a vehicle in the River Esk near the town of Glaisdale on 28 December 2023. Firefighters also rescued people from vehicles trapped in floods in nearby Houlsyke and Kirby Wiske. In the following days the overflowing River Ouse flooded roads and left the village of Naburn isolated.

Further south, heavy rain flooded a railway tunnel in Kent, England, severely interrupting Eurostar services between London and Paris. Roads were flooded in parts of Essex where 2 people were rescued after vehicles became trapped.

Storm Henk

The UK Met Office warned Storm Henk would bring further severe weather including strong winds and heavy rain from 02 January 2024. Wide areas of England and Wales recorded more than 40 mm of rain in 24 hours. River levels increased and the Environment Agency issued more than 250 flood warnings for areas of England.

By 02 January dozens of roads were reported flooded in areas of of the West Midlands, East Midlands and East Anglia.

Firefighters and police carried out flood rescues in Shropshire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire, among others. Bystanders rescued a child and driver from a car sinking in floodwater under a bridge over the River Cole near Sarehole Mill museum in Birmingham.

Authorities reported people were evacuated from a caravan park in Great Billing, Northampton, following the rise of the Nene River. Levels of the river at the measuring gauge at Nene Valley jumped to 1.63 metres on 03 January, 2024, just 1 cm below the record high seen on 24 December 2020.

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) said, “Twenty-nine adults and two children, along with a number of pets have been evacuated today as part of the rescue operations. Crews are continuing to carry out a systematic search of the 1,750 static homes. They have made contact with and evacuated everyone who wanted to leave, however, a small number of residents have chosen to remain in their properties.”

Northamptonshire Police said a further evacuation of around 130 people who remained in caravans on the Billing Aquadrome site would take place on 03 January.

As is often the case following heavy rain in England and Wales, the Severn river rose to dangerously high levels. Temporary flood defences were raised along the banks of the river in several locations including Bewdley and Shrewsbury.

The BBC reported hundreds of properties near the Severn in the West Midlands were flooded, in some cases for the fourth time this winter. Areas of the city of Worcester were flooded and some homes were evacuated. Flood waters from the Severn and Avon rivers surrounded the town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire.

Storm Henk is the first named storm of 2024 in the UK and the eighth so far this winter. Strong winds from the storm also caused widespread damage. One person died after a tree fell on a vehicle near Kemble in Gloucestershire. The Energy Networks Association reported power outages affected 107,000 homes during the peak of the storm.

The Met Office issued further warnings for heavy rain across the south of England from 04 to 05 January. As of 04 January, 273 flood warnings (flooding is expected) and 294 flood alerts (flooding is possible) were in place across England.