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Storm Dennis: Experts warn flooding could be worse than Ciara



The UK is preparing for a second weekend of weather disruption, as experts warn Storm Dennis could inflict more damage than Ciara when it arrives.

Severe weather warnings are in place for most of the UK – and forecasters say a month’s worth of rain could fall in some places.

The Army is being deployed as extra support in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

Road, rail and air travellers also face disruption, with British Airways and easyJet flights among those affected.

It comes after Storm Ciara flooded hundreds of homes last weekend.

The Environment Agency has warned flooding is likely to be worse this weekend as already saturated ground is met with a “perfect storm” of heavy rain, strong winds and melting snow.

Amber warnings for rain and yellow warnings for wind are in place for most of the country from Saturday afternoon into Sunday evening.

This means flooding could cause a danger to life, power cuts are expected and there is a good chance transport links will be impacted.

Calderdale Council said military personnel were being deployed to support recovery efforts from last weekend’s flooding and preparations for Storm Dennis.

Army troops may also be used to keep residents informed.

Council leader Tim Swift said their presence would be a “reassuring sight” for residents of “already exhausted communities”.

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EasyJet has cancelled 234 flights to, from and within the UK – affecting at least 40,000 passengers.

Almost 150 departures and arrivals have been cancelled at London’s Gatwick Airport, the airline’s main base.

An easyJet spokesperson said the company was offering customers the option to transfer their flight for free or a refund.

“We are doing everything possible to minimise the impact of the disruption for our customers and to arrange alternative travel,” they said.

However, passenger Rich Collie, whose flight to Edinburgh to Geneva was cancelled, said that he and his family had not heard from the airline since receiving a text on Friday night to notify them of the cancellation.

They decided to take an alternative flight from Manchester with a different airline, at the additional cost of about £900.

“You don’t expect a lot from a budget airline but a little bit of communication would have been great,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“The thing that really frustrated everyone that I was talking to was that they’re not giving you any alternatives.”

British Airways has grounded 40 departures to and from Heathrow on Saturday afternoon and evening in a bid to protect the rest of the schedule, merging some short-haul flights that are travelling to the same destination.

Network Rail is also advising passengers to expect delays and cancellations to services due to flooding, and to allow more time for their journeys.

The LNER train company has already cancelled dozens of services between London and the North East of England.

Other companies say services could be affected by speed restrictions as well as fallen trees and debris on the line.

Households living near rail lines have been asked to secure any loose gardens items, after several trampolines were blown on to the tracks last weekend.

It comes on a particularly busy weekend with many families having booked to travel over the half-term school holiday.

The worst-hit areas could see between 120-140mm of rainfall and gusts of up to 80mph over the weekend, the Met Office said.

The predictions are not as severe as last weekend when Ciara brought as much as 184mm of rain and gusts reaching 97mph, resulting in hundreds of homes flooding and more than 500,000 being left without power.

But experts have warned Storm Dennis could cause more flooding damage, because of the heavy rain falling on parts of the UK still recovering from Ciara.

John Curtin, the Environment Agency’s executive director of flood and coastal risk management, said Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire were the areas he was most “concerned” about.

“This [storm] could be a step up from what we have seen before,” Mr Curtin said.

“We had a big storm last weekend, [we now have] saturated catchments, snowmelt and rainfall, so it is a perfect storm.”

Visitors battle strong winds during a thunderstorm at the annual Whitby Regatta, August 2019

Getty Images

Weather warnings guide

  • YellowSevere weather possible, plan ahead, travel may be disrupted

  • AmberIncreased likelihood of impact, eg travel delays, power cuts

Source: Met Office

The Environment Agency said preparations were under way to operate flood defences, flood storage reservoirs and temporary barriers to protect communities.

These include the Foss Barrier in York, the Thames Barrier in London and another in Bewdley, Worcestershire, on the River Severn.

UK power operators say they have employed extra engineers and call centre staff to respond to any possible impact of the storm, after widespread power cuts last weekend.

Newly appointed Environment Secretary George Eustice said he had spoken to local flood response groups across the country on Friday.

Highlighting the Environment Agency’s preparations, he added: “We are fully focused on ensuring that communities are protected and have access to the support and advice they need to stay safe this weekend.”

At least 800 homes in the north of England and many other areas are at risk of being flooded over the weekend as Storm Dennis unleashes heavy rainfall.

That is the assessment of the Environment Agency which is warning that persistent intense rain will fall on ground already saturated.

Snow now lying on higher ground will be melted and will add to the threat.

The agency’s head of flood defence, John Curtin, told a media briefing that 800 homes were flooded last weekend during Storm Ciara and that “my feeling is that this will be at least as bad, probably more so”.

Over the course of the winter so far, 7% of 400 river gauges have set new records for water height.

Mr Curtin said temporary flood defences were being deployed in many places but added it was too early to tell exactly where the most intense rain would fall.

He said he was most concerned about Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria but parts of Wales, south-west England, the Midlands and south-east England could also be at risk.

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The Met Office has amber warnings for rain in pockets of northern and south-west England, and Wales from 12:00 GMT on Saturday until 15:00 on Sunday.

An amber warning is also in place for most of southern England from 00:15 until 18:00 on Sunday.

On Saturday morning, there were 14 flood warnings – meaning flooding is “expected” – and 141 flood alerts – meaning flooding is possible – in place across the country.

Yellow warnings for strong winds and heavy rain also cover all of England, Wales and southern Scotland between 09:00 GMT and midday on Saturday.

Further yellow warnings for wind are in place for northern parts of the UK from midday on Sunday until midday on Monday – potentially bringing travel disruption to commuters.

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