People across the UK are bracing themselves for another weekend of gales and floods – just days after Storm Ciara wreaked havoc across the country, killing two people. The Met Office has warned that Storm Dennis is due to strike on Saturday – bringing blizzard conditions and a threat to life.
Storm Ciara was at its peak over the weekend of 8th and 9th February, when the country was battered by gale-force winds, rain, hail and ice. Wind gusts of 97mph were recorded in some parts of the country, such as the Isle of Wight.© Leighton Collins / Shutterstock.com
Loss of life
In north Wales and south-east and east England, more than 20,000 properties were left without power on Sunday night.
In Cumbria, more than 400 properties were left with no fresh water and were issued a warning not to drink, cook or wash with tap water due to the storm damage of a mains supply. It was declared a major incident, as water chiefs battled to restore the supply.
Two people tragically lost their lives in Storm Ciara: on Sunday, a 58-year-old motorist died after a tree fell on his car in Hampshire. Then, on Tuesday, a dog-walker in his 60s died when he was struck by a falling tree branch in Liverpool.
No sooner had storm Ciara begun to fade on Wednesday than the Met Office issued further severe weather warnings, beginning on Saturday 15th February. Storm Dennis is on its way to the UK and seems even more threatening than Storm Ciara.
Heavy snow is set to cause more disruption, ahead of more gale force winds and torrential rain. Scotland and northern England are bracing themselves for snowfall. Areas of Cumbria and Northumberland, and much of Scotland have been warned of “blizzard” conditions, as snow showers combine with strong winds. These regions will have a yellow weather warning in place, as up to 10cm of snow has been forecast. Further snow is also expected in Northern Ireland.
The Environment Agency says there could be a further nightmare for more than 700 properties currently affected by flooding due to Storm Ciara, as Storm Dennis takes a hold. River and surface water flooding is a real threat on Saturday and Sunday. Many homes in west Yorkshire are still under water from last weekend.
People are advised to check online whether their area is at risk and to take extra care if they have to go out this weekend. Coastal properties and those next to rivers will be particularly at risk. Winds of up to 60mph are expected in some areas.
Sadly, the UK is no stranger to disastrous storms: in recent years, we have experienced some of the worst storms in history. The devastating effects of the weather have included Arctic-like winters, horrific floods and hurricane-force winds.
One of the harshest winters in history occurred in 1947, when “the big snow” brought Britain to a halt. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Brits, who were still weary from the Second World War and struggling with shortages. The country was victorious but impoverished, with food rationing still in place.
Starting on 23rd January and lasting for 6 weeks, storms brought snow drifts of up to 10ft deep and the country ground to a halt. Railways and roads were blocked, people couldn’t get to work, and it was reported London had only six days’ coal supplies left.
In the countryside, farmers were snowed in and couldn’t reach their livestock, leading to flocks being wiped out. For 55 days, the temperature barely reached higher than freezing and eventually, the armed forces had to be drafted in to clear the roads and get the country moving again.
Storm of the century
Known as the “storm of the century”, the great storm of 1953 became the worst peacetime disaster in Britain since records began, causing the deaths of 307 people. A heavy storm that blew up in Holland and Belgium made its way across the North Sea overnight on Saturday 31st January and was at its height in Britain on Sunday 1st February.
Waves flooded over the sea defences. The storm struck so suddenly that there were no severe flood warnings in place and coastal properties in England and Scotland suffered terrible flood damage.
The storm brought down phone lines, so people were cut off, with no idea what was happening. In the UK and Europe, more than 1,000 miles of coastline were affected. As well as the 307 deaths in Britain and more than 2,000 fatalities in the rest of Europe, 32,000 people were evacuated due to flooding.
More than 160,000 acres of land were flooded in the UK. This storm led to the launch of the official flood warning service in Britain and later the creation of the Thames Barrier.
Are the storms getting worse?
Unfortunately, scientists say storms are getting worse due to climate change. Global warming is causing more weather extremes – from heatwaves and droughts, to storms and hurricanes. According to the Environmental Defence Fund, research has detected a link between the earth’s warming and its changing weather patterns.
In recent years, there have been bigger storm surges and greater snowfall than in the past. As increased evaporation causes more moisture in the atmosphere, the amount of rainfall intensifies.
Scientists estimated that the rainfall from Hurricane Harvey, which caused catastrophic flooding in the United States in 2017, was 15% more intense than it would have been without human-induced climate change. More frequent Category 4 and 5 storms are predicted.
Sea levels are also rising, with melting glaciers and ice sheets. Along with this comes the increased risks of flooding. Sea levels have risen by around six inches since 1900 — and almost four of those inches since 1970 — pushing more water inland during hurricanes and storm surges.
Environmental campaigners say the catastrophic hurricanes and storms of recent years show we need to act immediately on climate change – before it’s too late.
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Take good care of yourselves this weekend!