United Kingdom

Storm Christoph sees rivers in Manchester and Wales reach highest levels ever

River levels reached records high overnight as torrential rain saw thousands of people, including entire villages, evacuated amid flooding risks with Scotland and the North facing more snow and ice warnings today 

After two months' worth of rain bucketed down over parts of Britain yesterday, the River Mersey threatened to burst its banks in Didsbury as water levels rose to a record high, prompting a mass evacuation in parts of Greater Manchester last night.

Some 2,000 homes were evacuated in East Didsbury, West Didsbury and Northenden, as water levels rose to 3.27m - well above the previous high of 3m recorded in 2016.

Experts said Didsbury was just centimetres away from severe flooding overnight. 

Four threat to life warnings issued by the Environment Agency are set to end this morning, after mass evacuations were also seen in parts of Ruthin, North Wales and Maghull, Merseyside, due to rising flood warnings. 

The River Dee in Wales reached 16.4m higher than the previous record of 16.35m set in 2011 - sparking a mass evacuation of a nearby village.

Locals in Bangor-on-Dee were told not to flee their homes as specialist 4x4s would instead pick them up.

The Welsh Government has urged people not travel unless essential, with 52 flood alerts currently in place.

The Environment Agency issued a further 192 flood warnings across England, with 229 less severe flood alerts, as torrential downpours cause rivers in Greater Manchester, Northumberland and Yorkshire to overflow.

However the Met Office has issued no weather warning for rain today, althought snow and ice Scotland and the north-west. 

Councils were left scrambling to evacuate people and shore up flood defences, made all the trickier by the need to keep confirmed cases of Covid-19 away from other people fleeing their homes.

Manchester City Council set up a COVID-safe emergency rest centre at Wythenshawe Forum.

Others were allowed to stay with friends and families, with the council ensuring them no legal action will be taken if they need to stay somewhere else due to the flood risk.   

Police helped evacuate 2,000 homes in Didsbury, Greater Manchester, as the River Mersey threatened to burst its banks overnight

Homes were evacuated after the River Mersey reached record highs overnight, with a local centre set up for people to attend

Manchester City Council told the public they would not face legal action if they broke coronavirus rules and stayed with friends to avoid floodwaters. An evacuation centre was also set up for people with nowhere to go

Storm Christoph caused the River Irwell in Salford to burst its banks overnight, with the waters slowly edging back today 

Lee Rowlinson, from the Environment Agency, was in Didsbury on Thursday. 

He told BBC's Radio 4 the river level was 'shocking,' adding: 'What I'm really pleased with is the actions of the Environment Agency meant we managed to take the peak off the river so that it didn't top its banks and flood those properties but we were very, very close.

'We were within centimetres and we're not out of the woods yet.

'The difficulty is that it's still raining up in the uplands, it may not be raining here in Cheshire and Manchester as heavily now, but the uplands are still getting some of that rainfall and the water has to come down through the rivers we're being vigilant for the next couple of days.

'We have our staff out for days before these events and for long days afterwards to try and ensure the rivers and the water can flow as freely and quickly to get away so we can get people back into their homes as quickly as possible. 

'We've protected hundreds of properties through this event here.'

Yesterday Boris Johnson, who chaired a meeting of the Government's Cobra civil contingencies committee yesterday, said steps were being taken to ensure the transport and energy networks were prepared so that electricity outages would not be 'severe', and that there were sufficient supplies of sandbags. 

He also urged people to heed the warnings if they are advised to evacuate, adding: 'There are some times where I have been to scenes where, alas, people have decided not to obey the advice and not evacuated.

'It is their right not to do so if they choose - it's always people's right to stay wherever they are. 'But it really is advisable - follow the advice. If you are told to leave your home then you should do so.'  

It comes as more than 120mm of rain has already fallen in parts of the country, with 123.42mm at Capel Curig in North Wales in the 24 hours up to 2pm on Wednesday. Crai Reservoir in South Wales saw the second highest total, with 115.6mm, and areas in Glamorgan and Cumbria also topped 100mm over the same period.  

Greater Manchester Police assistant chief constable Nick Bailey said a flood basin in Didsbury, which takes water from the River Mersey, was full and would 'over-top in the next few hours'.

'As a result, we will be issuing a flood warning to homes,' he said.

'We have identified about 160 people that will be moved. There will be provision at Wythenshawe Forum and hotels are being used.'

He said some of those being evacuated will have tested positive for coronavirus. 

There are no rain warnings for England after flooding yesterday, although snow and ice could cause disruption over other parts of Britain today 

The Environment Agency warned the River Mersey was 'very, very close,' to bursting bursting its banks and causing severe flooding in Didsbury last night  

The River Irwell's waters burst over the forecourt of the Lowry Hotel overnight, with surface water remaining this morning 

Storm Christoph has wreaked havoc in the north west, with flood waters remaining next to the River Irwell in Salford today 

Environment Agency workers are concerned more rain on higher ground could cause river levels to rise further in the coming days. Pictured: Salford this morning

Heavy snow caused river levels to rise in Didsbury, sparking a threat to life warning overnight which has now come to an end 

Parts of the Lowry Hotel's forecast were cordoned off this morning after the River Irwell burst its banks in Salford overnight

River levels reached records high in Wales and Greater Manchester overnight sparking mass evacuations in both areas 

The Environment Agency issued a further 192 flood warnings across England, with 229 less severe flood alerts, as torrential downpours cause rivers in Greater Manchester, Northumberland and Yorkshire to overflow

The River Mersey in Didsbury reached record levels overnight as thousands of people in Manchester were evacuated from their homes

Waters have started to drop in Didsbury after reaching record highs overnight, forcing 2,000 homes to flee over flood fears 

Threat to life flood warnings are expected to end this morning after evacuations in Didsbury, Greater Manchester last night. A warning for snow and ice remains in place for the north-west as well as parts of Scotland

CARMARTHEN: The river Towy in Carmarthen in south Wales burst its banks last night

Firefighters were called out to help deal with flood waters in Powys, wales on Thursday evening as Storm Christoph wreaked havoc across Britain

DIDSBURY: Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service emergency vehicles stand in the snow, as a preparations are made due to the risk of flooding

CARMARTHEN: The river Towy in Carmarthen in south Wales which burst its banks late on Wednesday night 

MANCHESTER: People late-night sledging as parts of Greater Manchester are evacuated

MERSEYSIDE: A car sits stranded in flooded waters under a bridge in St Helens, where there are after flood warning signs and barriers

The vehicle entered the water at Westgate in County Durham last night, prompting a difficult rescue for fire crews

Crews rescue Morrisons delivery van from floods in County Durham

Fire crews from across County Durham rescued a motorist whose vehicle went into the water at Westgate last night

This is the dramatic moment a supermarket delivery driver was rescued after his van flipped and careered off the road and got stuck in a fast-flowing ford.

Emergency services were called to reports at 5pm on Tuesday of a Morrisons van which had gotten stuck in a ford in Weardale, County Durham.

Firefighters and police from Bishop, Durham, Stanhope, and Middleton all rushed to the scene in a dramatic rescue mission.

When they arrived at Stanhope ford they found the Morrisons van had flipped to its side and the driver was sitting on top of the vehicle.

Bishop Auckland Fire Station said the rescue was 'challenging' due to the difficult conditions.

The van was later recovered from the water, the force confirmed.

A spokesperson said:'Difficult rescue in challenging conditions, great work all round.' 

Mr Bailey said up to 3,000 properties in Greater Manchester could be affected by flooding.

North Wales Police said its officers were helping the fire service to evacuate homes in Ruthin, Denbighshire, and urged people to avoid the area.

The force tweeted: 'Officers have been called to assist @DenbighshireCC and @NWFRS in £Ruthin, where some homes are being evacuated.

'Regrettably, people who do not live locally are driving to the area to 'see the floods'. Please do not stretch our resources by adding to the problem.'  

Meanwhile, residents in Maghull were advised to leave their properties as soon as possible after a severe flood warning was issued, Sefton Council said.

A council spokesman said heavy rain had led to raised water levels and flooding from the River Alt which was set to increase.

'Water levels at Dover Brook, near the River Alt, reached 2.5m today, which is unprecedented for that area, modelling from the Environment Agency, including anticipated overnight rainfall, will take that level to 3.5m,' the spokesman said.

A temporary rest centre has been set up at the Meadows Leisure Centre. 

Train operator Northern said torrential rain and flooding across the region had led to the closure of several rail routes, while others had suffered 'significant disruption'.

The company's regional director, Chris Jackson, said: 'Unfortunately the situation is only getting worse and we have had to make the difficult decision to ask our customers not to travel on the Northern rail network in the North West for the rest of today.'

Mr Jackson urged commuters wishing to use the service on Thursday morning to allow extra time for travel.

Met Office forecaster Grahame Madge described Storm Christoph as 'quite a slow-moving system' which is bringing 'a variety of weather' to the UK. The meteorologist said: 'While rain remains the main hazard in the south, further north we've got snow and ice remaining a risk.

'The system will work its way through, we are expecting significant totals of rainfall and when you combine that with snowmelt it can lead to localised flooding across the affected regions.'  

Family which 'nearly drowned' off Anglesey blasted by North Wales Police for flouting Covid-19 travel restrictions  

A father was blasted by the emergency services after he and his two young children needed rescuing from the sea off Anglesey yesterday.

North Wales Police said the man been reported for breaching Covid-19 travel restrictions after his family became trapped by rising waters at Llanddwyn Beach.

He called for help when he and his two children, aged 8 and 12, found themselves cut off and unable to get to dry land.

They had taken a lunchtime trip to the beach when they got into trouble.

RNLI lifeboat volunteers sent a boat to the area and waded into the sea to help the family. They were joined by police officers from Anglesey.

Acting District Inspector Ian Roberts said the family were taken to shore safely. But he launched a blistering attack on the man, who is from Anglesey.

'Preservation of life is a primary role of the emergency services and very fortunately, on this occasion, the group were led to safety without any injuries,' he said.

'The Welsh Government has clearly advised against any activity that involves a significant degree of risk - for example, swimming or other exercise at sea or in lakes, rivers and other waterways.

'Unfortunately this is an example of why such a request is in place.

'We are extremely pleased that nobody was injured, however the outcome could have been very different.' 

ACI Roberts reminded everyone that weather warnings are still in place and that people should take care.

'Wales remains in Level 4 restrictions, which are in place to prevent the spread of the virus and reduce unnecessary strain on the NHS,' he added.

Almost the whole of England, Wales and Northern Ireland are subject to yellow weather warnings for rain until midday on Thursday, with a more serious amber warning stretching from the East Midlands to the Lake District.

The amber alert warns of the risk of flooding and deep floodwaters which could pose a risk to life, and there are further warnings for snow and ice in Scotland.

An amber warning for snow in parts of southern Scotland warned around 30cm could fall in areas above 400m, with up to 10cm likely to accumulate in lower regions until 8am on Thursday. 

North Wales Police tweeted that its officers had been called to assist Denbighshire County Council and North Wales Fire & Rescue Service in Ruthin, where some homes were being evacuated, adding: 'Regrettably, people who do not live locally are driving to the area to 'see the floods'.' 

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, told MPs yesterday that its teams were out closing flood barriers and clearing drains.

He added: 'There are no plans right now to evacuate, but that might be necessary and preparations are being made by the relevant agencies as a precaution.'      

If the situation arises, Downing Street said Covid-secure evacuation centres would be made available to those forced to leave their homes as a result of flooding.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: 'We are live to that issue, should evacuations be needed.

'Preparations to create Covid-secure rest centres have been made. They have been made by relevant agencies as a precautionary measure. We will ensure Covid-secure rest centres if they are needed.

'The important message for the public now is to continue to monitor the information that the Environment Agency are providing and sign-up for flood alerts if they haven't already.'  

Cheshire Police this afternoon followed Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire in declaring a major incident.

The force said 33 residents of houseboats on Hayhurst Marina in Northwich had been evacuated and offered accommodation at nearby hotels due to concerns over the level of the River Weaver.

Superintendent Simon Parsonage said: 'We are continuing to work closely with our partners to monitor the situation and collectively we will do all we can to minimise any disruption across the county and keep people safe.

'There are currently restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic but I want to stress that the safety of the public remains our priority and I urge anyone who is asked to evacuate to follow the guidance given so that we can ensure this is managed in a Covid-safe way. 

'We will continue to monitor the situation closely as it develops over the next 48 hours and I would urge anyone affected by flooding to keep up-to-date with the latest news on the Environment Agency website.' 

It came as the assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester, where a major incident was declared, said up to 3,000 properties in the area could be affected by flooding caused by beset by flooding. 

Weather brings 'terrifying consequences for train services, says union

A trade union has warned of the 'terrifying consequences' that adverse weather could have on train services.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has written to Network Rail raising concerns that there is not sufficient resilience to poor conditions which could endanger passengers and workers.

The warning came after reports last week of the collapse of part of the Aberdeenshire rail bridge close to the site of Stonehaven train tragedy which saw three people die in August.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: 'Whilst rail workers have been battling in appalling conditions to keep rail services moving, it is shocking that even after the Stonehaven tragedy Network Rail have not been able to identify with us what areas of the railway are at risk from adverse weather conditions and what steps are being taken to reduce that risk.

'Poor railway resilience and poor weather conditions are a toxic combination which could have terrifying consequences for passengers and workers. We are also deeply concerned that the necessary inspection and works regimes needed are being compromised by budget and resource constraints.

'Network Rail need to provide answers and action before we have another tragedy.'

Train driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62, died when the 6.38am Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street ScotRail service derailed in Aberdeenshire after hitting a landslip on August 12 following heavy rain. 

Speaking at an online press briefing, Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey said areas of Didsbury, Northenden and Sale near the River Mersey could potentially be affected by flooding, with a peak expected at 11pm on Wednesday.

He said: 'The worst case scenario, estimated by the Environment Agency, is that it could impact on up to 3,000 properties across all the areas I have mentioned to varying degrees.

'This is a significant incident in terms of disruption to people and those people have been advised with regard to action to take.'

The severity of the storm was laid bare by the Met Office, which warned that Britain was set to be besieged by the elements this week. 

Spokesman Oli Claydon described the situation as 'a timeline of different hazards as we go through the week but the first hazard is certainly of rain and that's reflected in the warnings at the moment'. 

He explained: 'As we go through the week and the low pressure that is bringing these fronts of rainfall that are persistent and heavy over the next few days ... as that low pressure moves east and out into the North Sea, the winds will become a thing really later in the week.  

'Also as the low pressure moves away it pulls down a north-westerly airflow which brings much colder air across the UK again which then presents a further risk of snow.' 

Storm Christoph was already wreaking havoc on the roads early this morning, with high winds bringing an oak tree crashing down on a driver in Thurston, Suffolk.  

Police tweeted a picture of the car and said: 'First casualty of the bad weather... this convertible Fiat 500 had an oak tree fall on top of him as he was driving along. Amazingly no injuries.' 

In County Durham, rescue teams worked throughout the night to save a Morrisons delivery van that became stuck on a flooded road.

And on the M62 motorway in Yorkshire, a lorry tipped on to its side in the strong winds, causing road closures. Merseyside Police even reported a crash after a van was seen 'aquaplaining' on standing water on the motorway.

There was standing water on the M6 motorway outside Wigan on Wednesday asn motorists slowed to cope with difficult driver conditions 

It said: 'Please slow down and drive to the conditions. We have just finished dealing with this RTC on the M57 were one driver lost control after aquaplaning on standing water in lane three. Fortunately on this occasion nobody was hurt.'

Mr Claydon also said: 'It's not going to be a short burst of bad weather like you may think of in terms of storms in the past where it quickly blows through overnight.

'It's really persistent heavy rain, the rain really is going to be persistent, just continuing all the way through today and tomorrow and into Thursday, it's really just the prolonged accumulation of rainfall rather than a short come and gone weather event.'   

Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire said flood sirens in the village of Walsden in the west of the county had been activated, telling residents to turn off their utilities.

The council's chief executive Robin Tuddenham later said no further activation of sirens was expected overnight as river levels were high but stable.  

Floodwaters have already risen in parts of the country, with a motorist pictured stranded in Leicester, and workmen in York prepared flood defences on Tuesday morning near the city's River Ouse.

A major incident had already been declared in South Yorkshire in anticipation of flooding that could arrive in the coming days.

Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones tweeted on Monday evening: 'Key risk areas have been inspected over the past 36 hours, sand-bags have been handed out in flood-risk areas & will continue over the next 24 hours.' 

Flooding across the UK could rise by as much as 35% by 2080, major new study suggests

Flooding across the UK could increase by an average of 15-35% by the year 2080, a new study has suggested.

Researchers from the Water Resilient Cities project at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh looked at flooding activity deemed 'one in two-year' and 'one in 30-year' events for their projections.

This covers the likelihood of a flood event occurring - for example, a one in two-year return period run-off or flood event has a one in two chance of being equalled or exceeded in any given year.

Parts of Scotland face a 34% increase in flooding in the next 50 years, according to the study, but at the other end of the UK, in south-east England, there is just an 18% increase expected.

Dr Annie Visser-Quinn, a data scientist at Heriot-Watt, said: 'We used multiple datasets and methods and compared the results, using the most up-to-date data available.

'The estimates paint a concerning picture for the future UK flood landscape, especially when combined with increasing urbanisation.

'Across the UK, we found that the magnitude of the one in two-year event could increase by 15-35%.

'The north and east of Scotland is facing a 34% increase in the magnitude of flood events, which is significant - the north of England and Wales are similarly high at 25-28%.

'London and the Midlands have the lowest percentage increase. The magnitude of their one in two-year events will increase by 18% - even a small increase can have a profound impact on urban areas.'

It comes as communities began to brace for Storm Christoph, with 'significant' rainfall due across large swathes of the UK.

Major incidents had been declared in Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire amid amber and yellow weather warnings for the storm with snow also expected northern areas.

Last year's Storm Dennis was considered a 'one in 30-year' event, but the scientists are unable to say whether the incidence of this will increase in years to come.

Dr Visser-Quinn added: 'We couldn't get the different models to agree on those more unusual, extreme events, so there is still uncertainty there.

'However, we do think the bigger change will occur in the south and south-west of England. That's concerning given these are the more extreme events.

'Robust modelling will help improve our flood preparedness, which is why this work is essential.

'New climate data coming out later this year should be investigated as quickly as possible to inform the UK's flood protection policies.'

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