Storms to batter New Year revellers

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MORE miserable weather is threatening further flooding across the already saturated ground up and down the UK and could affect New Year celebrations.

Tens of thousands of homes across the south east of England, north Wales and Cumbria were left without electricity over the last week because of damage caused by the storms which battered the country.

Another band of heavy rain and strong winds is arriving in the UK, bringing with it a risk of flooding and disruption.

Forecasters have said the latest storm pushing in from the Atlantic will cross the UK from west to east.

The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning over fears of strong gales of up to 80mph affecting Wales, southern, western and northern England and Scotland.

Matt Dobson, a senior forecaster for MeteoGroup, said although the wet and blustery conditions were “fairly normal” for this time of year, the wet ground is vulnerable to floods.

“The problem is it’s coming when we’ve already had a lot of rain across the country, which increases the risk of flooding,” he said.

“In the last 12 hours we’ve seen between 20mm and 50mm of rainfall across eastern parts of Northern Ireland, south-west Scotland, Cumbria and Wales, which is exceptionally wet.

“Through the day we’re going to see a band of rain and gusty winds sweeping from west to east across parts of the UK.”

The forecaster said most of the gusts would be between 40mph and 50mph, but could reach 60mph in some local areas.

Although tonight will be largely calm, the weather will take a turn for the worse tomorrow evening, Mr Dobson said.

“We’re already looking at more rain sweeping in from the west for New Years Eve,” he added.

The Environment Agency (EA) have about 100 flood alerts in place in southern, western and northern England.

And the unsettled weather looks set to continue into the new year after the Met Office issued a severe weather warning for rain on New Year’s Day, affecting southern England and western Scotland.

Some 1,300 properties have been flooded during the recent storms in England, the EA said.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said he has pressed energy companies to stop staff taking new year holidays as a second week of storms looks set to derail the festive period.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Paterson said: “Quite clearly some of the power companies let their customers down badly. It seems obvious at this stage that they let too many of their staff go away for the Christmas holiday, they didn’t have enough people manning the call centres and that wasn’t acceptable.”

He added: “We have had bad weather overnight and we are looking to more bad weather unfortunately on New Year’s Day, New Year’s night.

“We made it very clear at Cobra yesterday - we do expect the power companies and we also expect those local councils that did not perform, that they have adequate staff to cater with what I am afraid may be more difficult times and more flooding.”

Energy companies have been criticised for their slow reaction to storm damage.

The executive of one of the UK’s biggest power distributors admitted its efforts to restore power to thousands of people should have been better.

Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UK Power Networks, told The Mail on Sunday it was not prepared for the storm and too many staff were on holiday.

The company, which owns electricity lines and cables in London, the South East and east of England, said it will increase payments for 48 to 60-hour outages from £27 to £75 for those affected on Christmas Day as “a gesture of goodwill”.

Additional payments will be made to customers who have been without electricity for longer than that time - up to a maximum of £432.

People seeking advice on what to do before, during and after flooding were told to visit the Environment Agency website or to call Floodline on 0845 9881188.




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