UK weather: People told to ‘pack your stuff now’ amid flood warnings

The latest heat wave came to an abrupt end with heavy rainfall in some places (Image: PA/EPA/Metro.co.uk)

Households have been urged to pack ‘grab bags’ of valuables and essentials, as three million homes face the risk of flooding in the coming days.

The summer’s second prolonged heat wave came to an abrupt end on Monday when thunderstorms barricaded some areas with almost three centimeters of rain.

Forecasters have warned of an “unbelievable deluge” this week after the driest July on record and driest first half of the year for decades caused drought across parts of Britain, leaving the country parched.

The Met Office has issued a yellow thunderstorm warning for most of the country on Monday and Tuesday as the conditions could cause flooding, transport disruption and power cuts.

It will remain in place for southern England on Wednesday, where communities could be cut off by flooded roads and the chance of fast-flowing or deep floodwaters could cause life-threatening conditions.

More than three million households in England are vulnerable to surface water flooding, the Environment Agency estimates, with 300,000 more at risk in Wales and Scotland.

People living in “low-lying properties” should ensure their valuables are “ready for use”, or “on a higher level of your house”, due to the current high flood risk.

Met Office meteorologist Clare Nasir told Sky News: “For low-lying properties, which may have been built on a flood plain, yes, there is a risk of property flooding.

“Get all your documents, whether it’s your cell phone, your passport, etc., all the things you don’t want to be damaged by flood water, and make sure they’re ready for use or on a higher level of your house.”

She added that the downpours overnight and into this morning are “the wrong kind of rain that we need for the ground”, as the ground is too hard to absorb it.

The meteorologist continued: “What we’re looking for is some kind of continuous rain, moderate rain, rather than this incredibly intense burst, which is currently moving up over more southern parts of England.

“So we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Handout photo courtesy of the Twitter feed of @themanwith1arse of lightning striking Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, as the UK braces for three days of rain and yellow weather warnings.  Photo date: Monday 15 August 2022. PA Photo.  See the PA story WEATHER Flood.  Photo credit should read: Zak Kennedy/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout image may be used for editorial reporting purposes only for the simultaneous illustration of events, things, or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption.  Reuse of the image may require additional permission from the copyright holder.

Image taken of lightning striking Wishaw, North Lanarkshire (Image: PA)

Mandatory credit: Photo by Coastal JJ/Bav Media/REX/Shutterstock (12232126d) Lightning over the English Channel on Saturday morning seen from the beach at Selsey in West Sussex as thunderstorms hit southern England.  The Met Office forecast says that today will be fine, very warm and dry for many, but cloudier in some coastal areas of the North Sea.  Cloudy and more unsettled across southern Britain with some heavy showers and thunderstorms at times, especially mainly this afternoon.  Tonight: Early evening showers and thunderstorms across southern UK slowly diminishing, most regions then dry with clear spells overnight.  However, showers could affect parts of south-east Britain overnight.  Warm again. Sunday: Fine, very warm and dry for many, but some North Sea coastal areas are cloudy.  Heavy showers and thunderstorms will affect parts of southern Britain, particularly East Anglia and southeast England.  Outlook for Monday to Wednesday: Scattered showers and thunderstorms on Monday, these are more widespread on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Temperatures generally close to normal with light or moderate winds in most places.  Seasonal Weather, Selsey, UK - 24 July 2021

Lightning over the English Channel at the weekend as thunderstorms hit southern England (Image: Coastal JJ/Bav Media/Rex/Shutterstock)

Mandatory credit: Photo by Matthew Chattle/Shutterstock (13094653aa) Seasonal weather: UK drought.  Rain in north London.  Seasonal weather, UK.  - 15 August 2022.

Rainfall in London (Image: Matthew Chattle/Shutterstock)

Handout photo courtesy of the @WeatherSteff Twitter feed of staff at The Milky Way in Devon cleaning up flood water inside the premises as heavy rain and flooding hit areas of Cornwall and Devon while thunderstorms lash the south west and east of England.  Photo date: Monday 15 August 2022. PA Photo.  See the PA story WEATHER Flood.  Photo credit should read: Steff Gaulter/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used for editorial reporting purposes for the simultaneous illustration of events, things, or the people in the photo or facts mentioned in the caption.  Reuse of the image may require additional permission from the copyright holder.

Members of staff at The Milky Way in Devon clear flood water inside the premises (Image: PA)

ELLESMERE PORT, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 15: Visitors to the National Waterways Museum use umbrellas during a rainy spell as forecasters predict storms following the heat wave on August 15, 2022 in Ellesmere Port, United Kingdom.  After Britain experienced a second summer heatwave, storms are expected to start in the north of the country from Monday and move across the country by Wednesday, with flood warnings issued by the Met Office.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Visitors to the National Waterways Museum use umbrellas during a rainy season (Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Heavy showers caused flooding in areas of Cornwall and Devon on Monday afternoon, while thunderstorms developed in east coast counties such as Essex, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.

Met Office meteorologist Tom Morgan said most places stayed dry on the day, but added: “There have been areas of the country that have seen the heavy showers today mainly in the south west of England.

“We have seen some flooding in parts of Cornwall and Devon,” he said, adding there had been “very difficult driving conditions, flooding, some hail with thunder and some lightning.”

He said the flooding also “creates the potential for some power outages and some potential flooding, particularly in cities and more urban areas”.

“There are also thunderstorms in east coast areas of Suffolk, Essex and Lincolnshire,” he said, but added that these are not expected to have a significant push bar causing any difficult driving conditions.

Mr Morgan continued: “There is just as much potential [Tuesday] to be as effective as it has been today.’

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Flood warnings had also been issued for parts of west London near the River Thames, including Richmond, Chiswick and Putney, but they have since been lifted.

Speaking on Monday, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “We learned a lot from last year in July when there was flooding caused by a huge amount of rain – two months’ rain – in just a couple of hours and people’s homes, businesses and public transport were flooded.

“Speaking to the Met Office, the Environment Agency and many others, we are concerned that over the next few days we could see a huge amount of rain in a short space of time which could lead to flooding.

“I have written to tens of thousands of Londoners who live in homes that could be affected by flooding.

“My message to Londoners is to get in touch with Floodline, go to your local authority’s website to see what you can do to reduce your chances of being flooded but also to minimize the consequences for you,” he said, advising people also checking that they are insured and what these details are, as well as preparing a grab bag.

Mr Khan said: ‘[We are] are working closely with the water companies, the fire service, Transport for London, local councils and other partners to make sure we are as ready as we can be, but the bad news is that there could be flooding if there is heavy rain in a short period of time period of time.’

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Earlier, Professor Hannah Cloke, an expert in hydrology at the University of Reading, explained why there is potential for flooding in drought-stricken areas.

She said: ‘The butt is very dry and when it’s that dry it feels a bit like concrete and that water can’t get in so it just drains off.

“There’s the damage to homes and businesses these floods can cause, and the inconvenience of transport disruption, but if it’s very heavy in one place it can also be very dangerous.”

On how it could affect cities and towns, she said: ‘If you get heavy rain in a city, the drainage system can cope with it up to a point, but if it’s really heavy rain it can overwhelm the system – the rain can’t run away fast enough .

In rural areas, Professor Cloke said this type of flooding often hits low points on roads and under bridges, adding: “It’s very dangerous to drive through floodwater.”

Explaining why this heavy rain will not relieve drought-stricken areas, she said: ‘It really is a drop in the ocean. It doesn’t soak into the soil, that’s how we really need it.

“We need it back in the system where it can be stored. We really need a long winter of rain to replenish this.’

weather forecast map 16.08 met office 16 August 2022 metro graphics credit metro.co.uk

Map showing the rain and thunderstorm warnings (Image: Metro.co.uk)

Meanwhile, Christine Colvin, director of advocacy and engagement at the Rivers Trust, said there is a risk that people will not take the drought seriously in the coming days “just because it’s raining”.

“We want people to keep this rainfall event in context and as part of the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is that we’ve actually still had an incredibly dry year as well as a dry summer, and it’s going to take sustained rainfall to replenish our supplies, she said.

“Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean the drought is over.

“It seems very counterintuitive, but it’s going to take sustained rain to replenish the supplies we actually use, which are the aquifers and the managed storage in our reservoirs.”

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