Wednesday’s storm that pounded west and south west England and Wales with winds of 100 kms per hour has resulted in a trail of fresh destruction in areas already reeling under the effects of the wettest winter in years.
Over 5,800 homes have been flooded so far. Two deaths were recorded in the storm and an estimated 130,000 homes suffered power failures. Work is underway to repair broken power lines, trees and railway lines that have suffered extensive damage and severe disruption to train travel.
BBC Weather warned that yet another Atlantic storm heading towards the island nation that will make landfall on Friday will be "every bit as intense, if not more" than Wednesday's.
"It looks like being the wettest winter on record and the groundwater has got nowhere to go. The ground is like a sponge, the sponge is full to overflowing. What we don't need is more rain. [But] what we're going to get is another storm," the channel reported.
On Tuesday, the Met Office issued its first “red warning” in the last two years and the first of this winter, cautioning of widespread damage and “risk to life” if people living in the affected regions do not “avoid dangerous areas.”
Labour party leader Ed Miliband has postponed his trip scheduled for next week to India owing to the flood emergency. This was billed as his first major visit to a foreign country in recent years.
Even the Premier League games were cancelled because of high winds – the first time in 20 years, it is reported.
Following the Met Office warning Prime Minister David Cameron had called for the country to “unite in a great national effort.”
“Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed for, it will be spent,” Mr. Cameron said.
There are 2000 army personnel who have been deployed in the affected areas, and 3000 more on standby. Daily Telegraph quoted a senior army officer as saying that the country had turned into a “battlefield” against the rising water.
The UK Environmental Agency has said that flooding is set to continue into the weekend along the Thames – where 14 severe flood warning remain in force -- and in Somerset. There will be “significant flooding of homes and businesses,” the agency said.
Meanwhile, a new climatology report released by the The Met Office’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology on Thursday, will answer many questions in the debate over whether the recent inclement weather can be directly attributed to global climate change.
The report ‘Recent Storms and Floods in the UK’ (available on its website at www.metoffice.gov.uk) examines the causes behind the run of winter storms the UK has been experiencing resulting in “serious coastal damage and widespread, persistent flooding.
Characterising the “clustering and persistence of the storms” as “highly unusual” the analysis says that the severe weather in the UK has coincided with exceptionally cold weather in Canada and the USA. “These extreme weather events on both sides of the Atlantic were linked to a persistent pattern of perturbations to the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean and North America.”
Are these conditions directly linked to climate change? “As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding. This is in part due to the highly variable nature of UK weather and climate,” the report says.
The authors however call for more research, as there is growing evidence “that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense, and that the rate of increase is consistent with what is expected from fundamental physics. There is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly heavy rain events,” it argues. It says that climate models that capture storms are becoming available, and should be used as a base for future planning and investing in flood defences.