5 Dec 2015

Cumbria floods: when will the rain stop?

Heavy rain is bringing serious flooding to parts of Cumbria today, with the River Eden having already burst its banks at Appleby.

A highest level “take action” red weather warning has been issued by the Met Office – the first since February 2014 – warning that an additional 150-200mm of rain may fall across mountainous parts of Cumbria between midday on Saturday and 6am on Sunday.

As of early afternoon on Saturday, the Environment Agency has 17 severe flood warnings in force across the north east and north west, meaning that severe flooding is expected, along with danger to life.

In addition, there are more than 140 flood warnings in force for Wales, the Midlands, northern England and Scotland.

What’s causing the flooding?

North western parts of the UK typically see a lot of rainfall during the autumn, but the problem lies in the fact that it has been very wet throughout autumn. In November, north western parts of England and Wales, along with southern Scotland had double the average rainfall, leaving the ground saturated with water.

This has meant that the ground has no more capacity to soak up the heavy, persistent rain that is falling this weekend, resulting in river levels rising quickly and causing flooding.

Another contributing factor has been the feed of warm, tropical air that has been moving across the UK from with south west.

Tropical air holds a lot of moisture and as this rises up over the steep, mountainous terrain in the west, it boosts the intensity and amounts of rain fall that are produced.

Couple this with the fact that the band of rain has been very slow moving, intense rates of rainfall have been affecting the same locations for long periods of time.

When will the rain stop?

The heavy, persistent rain will continue for the rest of Saturday, with another 150-200mm expected across the higher parts of Cumbria.

Other parts of northern England, along with central and southern Scotland could see 60-100mm, with some flooding problems likely in these areas too.

However, the rain will start to ease and clear southwards by around dawn on Sunday morning, leaving a drier, brighter day on Sunday with lighter winds.

Photo 2

Severe gales from Storm Desmond

As if the heavy rain and flooding wasn’t enough to contend with, gale or severe gale force winds from Storm Desmond will give gusts of wind of 60-80mph across northern parts of the UK.

This strength of wind will have the potential to uproot trees – especially where the ground has been softened by the copious amounts of rain that have fallen in the past few weeks.

In the worst affected areas, the combination of wind and rain will continue to cause disruption through the rest of Saturday and into Sunday. It really is worth staying informed with the latest flood and weather warnings, as well as considering if your journey is absolutely necessary.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the latest developments throughout the rest of the day and posting updates on Twitter – @liamdutton

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