Thunderstorms batter southern UK as mudslide blocks road

A long winter of rain is needed to replenish Britain's water system, experts say

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Roads in Devon and Cornwall have flooded again as heavy rain and thunderstorms hit parts of the UK for the second day running.

Torrential rain flooded roads in Cornwall and Devon in the south-west, and also across the country in Haywards Heath in West Sussex.

People living in low-lying properties should make sure their valuable items are “ready to go”, or “on a higher level of your house”, due to the high flood risk, the Met Office warned.

Amber thunderstorm warnings for parts of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset were issued by the Met Office with a chance of homes and businesses flooding as well as power cuts, with fast-flowing or deep water causing danger to life, transport disruption and communities being cut off by flooded roads.

New flood alerts were issued on Tuesday for areas of the Midlands and south-east England. Yellow weather warnings are also in place for most of the UK on Tuesday and for southern England on Wednesday.

Mopping up in Devon, one of the areas hit by thunderstorms. PA

“For low-lying properties, which perhaps have been built on a floodplain, yes, there is a risk of flooding in properties,” meteorologist Clare Nasir said.

Parts of Cornwall and Devon flooded on Monday and afternoon thunderstorms developed in eastern counties, including Essex, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.

One Twitter user shared video of floodwater in Newquay, writing: “I've never seen rain like this. Our road is flooding #Newquay.”

Another Twitter user in Bishop's Tawton, north Devon, said: "(F)lash flooding causing use of sandbags to prevent water in house, despite recent flood work by @EnvAgency urgent need for solutions.”

Police were called to a mudslide on the A358 road near Combe Florey in Somerst, just outside Bishops Lydeard. Officials said 50 tonnes of mud needed to be moved off the road before it could be reopened.

Swimmers have been warned of sewage and pollution at several beaches on English coastlines, linked to the heavy rain.

The environmental campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) said sewage had gone into the waters at beaches in Cornwall, Devon, Sussex, Essex, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Northumberland and Cumbria.

Scotland also experienced travel disruption on rail networks and roads on Tuesday following heavy showers.

Visitors to the National Waterways Museum in Cheshire, England, are caught in a rain storm. Getty

In Belfast in Northern Ireland a flooded shopping centre was forced to close, and in London heavy rain fell but no damage was reported. Speed restrictions have been imposed on large sections of the railway in Scotland.

Hail, frequent lightning and flash flooding is possible in areas further south, with heavy rain predicted across England and Wales on Tuesday.

The storms come after weeks of dry, warm conditions that have caused droughts across parts of the UK, leaving land parched.

Tragedy in the heatwave

Before the weather turned, the UK had enjoyed and endured temperatures into the mid-30s. But not without tragedy.

A body was recovered on Monday night from water in Carrbrook, Greater Manchester.

“From our inquiries so far, we are confident that there are no suspicious circumstances and that this is such a sad reminder of the dangers of entering open water, whatever the weather,” said Detective Inspector Steven Horton of Tameside Police.

“We remind the public to avoid being tempted to cool off in reservoirs, rivers, canals or ponds.”

A drought was declared for Yorkshire on Tuesday. It became the ninth English region to be put under emergency orders.

Droughts were declared for the regions of Devon and Cornwall, Solent and South Downs, Kent and South London, Hertfordshire and North London, East Anglia, Thames, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, and the East Midlands last week.

Footage shared on social media showed a roundabout near the river in Truro, Cornwall, quickly flooding on Monday afternoon.

Ruan Sims, manager of the HiQ Tyre and Autocare garage on the roundabout, told PA that the road had flooded in the past but he had never seen the water rise so high.

He said the water flooded in as suddenly as the rain started but then fully drained away about 10 minutes later when the sun came out.

“It was quite mad,” he said. “It didn’t go into the garage but it came right up to the wall.”

Mr Sims said cars were driving through the water slowly but he saw that a few had stopped until the water level started to go down again.

UK’s second heatwave this summer comes with drought and wildfire warning — video

Hannah Cloke, an expert in hydrology at the University of Reading, said: “The ground is really dry and when it is so dry, it acts a little bit like concrete and water can’t get in, so it drains straight off.

“There is the damage to homes and businesses these floods can cause, and inconvenience with transport disruptions, but if [the rain] is 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 up to a point, but if there is really heavy rain it can overwhelm the system — the rain cannot run away quickly enough.”

In rural areas, Ms Cloke said this sort of flooding often hit low points in roads and under bridges. “It is very dangerous to drive through floodwater,” she said.

Explaining why the heavy rain would not alleviate drought-hit areas, she said: “It’s a drop in the ocean really. It is not soaking into the soil, which is how we really need it. We need it back into the system where it can be stored.

“We really need a long winter of rain to replenish this.”

Updated: August 16, 2022, 2:54 PM
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