Storms Ciara and Dennis batter UK and Ireland causing flooding and high winds, with Ellen on the way
Two major storms, first Ciara and then Dennis have battered the UK and Ireland since 4 February 2020, with no sign of letting up as Storm Ellen is predicted to hit this weekend. Deluged communities in parts of the UK are facing more heavy rain as they struggle to cope in the wake of Storm Dennis. A month's worth of rain in 24 hours is also forecast to hit north Wales and north-west England, falling on ground that is already saturated. Eight rivers have reached record levels in recent days, the Environment Agency (EA) said. Nearly 120 flood warnings remain in place across the country. The EA said there is a "heightened flood risk" across the Midlands, with six severe warnings, meaning there is a danger to life, still in place around the Rivers Lugg, Severn and Wye. Dave Throup, the EA's manager for Hereford and Worcestershire, said the Wye flooding was over half a metre bigger than anything for 110 years. "It's getting scary folks," he said, adding that "what I've seen over the last few days isn't normal. It isn't even the new normal. It's going to get worse. We need to adapt and respond. And fast."
Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes in the worst-affected areas, which include south Wales, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire.
Yellow warnings for rain remained in place in south and north-west on Thursday, 20 February 2020, with the Met Office saying they could see 50 to 60mm and 70 to 100mm of rain respectively. "In the worst case scenario we could see a month's worth of rain," said the Met Office's Craig Snell. He said as the ground was saturated due to persistent, heavy rainfall, the rivers were less likely to be able to cope with further rain.
A yellow warning for wind for north-east England, southern Scotland and Yorkshire are in place for 12 hours from 8h00 on Friday, 21 February 2020. According to the EA, England had already received 141 percent of its average February rainfall so far this month.
Air traffic disruptions
An Etihad Airways flight was forced to perform a “crosswind landing” at Heathrow Airport due to powerful winds from Storm Dennis on Saturday, 15 February 2020. In footage of the landing, the plane was seen attempting to touch down while battling the harsh headwinds. The plane started to veer sideways while hovering in the air, before safely stabilising and landing. The plane then was seen sliding down the runway at a diagonal. At one point, the pilot even tried to straighten the aircraft, but the winds appeared to be too strong. The storm meant many flights were cancelled across the country, including London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
High winds created by Storm Ciara over the United Kingdom and the North Atlantic meant that a British Airways Boeing 747-400 broke the record for the fastest subsonic flight between John F Kennedy International Airport in New York City and London Heathrow. The aircraft was propelled by a strong tailwind and the jet stream across the Atlantic, completing the journey in 4 hours and 56 minutes. During the flight, the aircraft hit a maximum ground speed of 825 mph (1 328 km/h) and arrived 78 minutes ahead of schedule. Alongside two Virgin Atlantic flights which arrived around the same time, it surpassed the previous world record of 5 hours and 13 minutes, set by a Norwegian flight in January 2018.
Meanwhile, British animal anti-cruelty charity the RSPCA said animal rescue officers had been called out more than 200 times in 72 hours across the UK, including for "dramatic rescues" of 60 sheep, horses, a swan and chickens.
A woman who fell into the fast-flowing River Usk in Brecon, Wales, clung onto a branch until fire fighters rescued her. Fire crews were called to the town's Promenade around 3h00 on Thursday, 20 February 2020. Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said 20 fire fighters were involved in the rescue. Water levels are high on the river in the aftermath of Storm Dennis but the woman was able to stay afloat by hanging onto a branch. Crews used ropes and a thermal imaging camera in the operation. She was put on a spinal board and handed over to ambulance crews. The operation ended at 4h06.
The Environment Agency urged the public to consult the latest safety advice amid a significant flood risk, with further rain forecast later this week, in a statement on Tuesday, 18 February 2020. The agency said that over 3,7 miles of temporary flood barriers were put up to protect some 25 000 properties, with over 900 members of staff providing support on the ground.
John Curtin, executive director of flood and coastal risk management at the Environment Agency, said, “We expect further disruptive weather into Wednesday and Thursday, bringing a significant flood risk to the West Midlands and there are flood warnings in place across much of England.”
On 6 February 2020, Met Éireann issued a country-wide yellow wind and rain warning for 8 and 9 February 2020, forecasting average wind speeds between 50 to 6 km/h, gusts up to 110km/h and rainfall of up to 40 mm. Orange wind warnings were additionally issued for the counties of Galway, Mayo and Donegal on 7 February 2020. A country-wide yellow wind warning was also issued, in effect from 9 to 10 February 2020, as well as a country-wide yellow warning for snow and ice for 10 to 11 February 2020.
Ciara and Dennis have each claimed victims. A shop owner who died when a tree fell on to his car during Storm Ciara will be "sorely missed", his family has said. Kenneth Macartney, 58, was driving his Mercedes on the A33 from Winchester to Micheldever in Hampshire when it was struck by a tree and died on 9 February 2020. The following day, a 77-year-old man from Scotland, was killed after falling on ice and hitting his head. A man also died in Liverpool, due to a tree branch falling in high winds.
At least six fatalities have been recorded from Storm Dennis as of 18 February 2020: one in the United States and five in the United Kingdom. Heavy rainfall caused severe flooding in Wales and southern England, with many rivers reaching their highest levels ever recorded. Further flooding was also reported in areas of northern England that had been inundated by Storm Ciara the previous weekend.
In the UK, two people were killed on 15 February 2020: a man was found dead hours after falling overboard from a tanker and a teenager died after entering the sea in Kent. On 16 February 2020, a man was found dead in a flooded river near Trebanos, Wales. The army was deployed to assist in rescue efforts.
Four people were killed and one woman was missing, later found dead, in Wales. A fifth person, Yvonne Booth, 55, became a victim of Storm Dennis when she was swept away by floodwater near Tenbury in Worcestershire when her car became stranded in Tenbury Wells on Sunday, 16 February 2020. An 87-year-old woman was still missing on Thursday, 20 February 2020, after falling in a flooded river in her dressing gown.
Source: BBC and Wikipedia