Storm Dennis: Army called in to help shore up defences

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Media captionSarah Keith-Lucas has an update on the latest weather warnings

The Army has been deployed to help with flood relief as the UK faces a second weekend of weather disruption.

Severe weather warnings are in place for much of the country and forecasters say a month’s worth of rain could fall in some places.

The MoD said 75 soldiers from 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, have been sent to Ilkley and Calderdale in West Yorkshire.

They are helping build flood barriers and repair defences.

A further 70 Reservists from 4th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, will also be providing support where required.

Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift said their presence would be a “reassuring sight” for residents of “already exhausted communities”.

Road, rail and air travellers also face disruption, with British Airways and easyJet flights among those affected.

It comes after Storm Ciara flooded hundreds of homes last weekend.

The Environment Agency has warned flooding is likely to be worse this weekend as already saturated ground is met with a “perfect storm” of heavy rain, strong winds and melting snow.

Amber warnings for rain and yellow warnings for wind are in place for most of the country from Saturday afternoon into Sunday evening.

This means flooding could cause a danger to life, power cuts are expected and there is a good chance transport links will be impacted.

Image copyright PA Wire
Image caption Flood defences were prepared in Mytholmroyd, in the Upper Calder Valley

A body has been found by rescue crews searching for a man reported to have gone overboard from a fuel tanker off Margate Harbour in Kent before the storm struck.

A coastguard helicopter, a Royal Navy warship and RNLI lifeboats joined the operation in heavy seas around Margate Harbour after the alarm was raised in the early hours on Saturday.

Meanwhile, easyJet has cancelled about 350 flights over the weekend, affecting tens of thousands of passengers.

Almost 100 of those are to and from London’s Gatwick Airport, the airline’s main base, on Saturday.

An easyJet spokesperson said the company was offering customers the option to transfer their flight for free or a refund.

“We are doing everything possible to minimise the impact of the disruption for our customers and to arrange alternative travel,” they said.

About 60 flights have also been grounded at London’s Heathrow Airport. Most of them are British Airways.

Network Rail is also advising passengers to expect delays and cancellations to services due to flooding, and to allow more time for their journeys.

The LNER train company has already cancelled dozens of services between London and the North East of England.

Other companies say services could be affected by speed restrictions as well as fallen trees and debris on the line.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Waves crashed against the sea wall in Porthcawl, south Wales

Households living near rail lines have been asked to secure any loose gardens items, after several trampolines were blown on to the tracks last weekend.

Sporting fixtures across Britain have been affected, with the Rangers v Livingston and Motherwell v St Mirren Premiership matches in Scotland postponed due to the weather, along with Rochdale v Tranmere and Swindon v Scunthorpe in England.

Image copyright Met Office

The worst-hit areas could see between 120-140mm of rainfall and gusts of up to 80mph over the weekend, the Met Office said.

The predictions are not as severe as last weekend when Ciara brought as much as 184mm of rain and gusts reaching 97mph, resulting in hundreds of homes flooding and more than 500,000 being left without power.

But experts have warned Storm Dennis could cause more flooding damage, because of the heavy rain falling on parts of the UK still recovering from Ciara.

John Curtin, the Environment Agency’s executive director of flood and coastal risk management, said Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire were the areas he was most “concerned” about.

“This [storm] could be a step up from what we have seen before,” Mr Curtin said.

“We had a big storm last weekend, [we now have] saturated catchments, snowmelt and rainfall, so it is a perfect storm.”

Visitors battle strong winds during a thunderstorm at the annual Whitby Regatta, August 2019

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Weather warnings guide

  • YellowSevere weather possible, plan ahead, travel may be disrupted

  • AmberIncreased likelihood of impact, eg travel delays, power cuts

Source: Met Office

The Environment Agency said preparations were under way to operate flood defences, flood storage reservoirs and temporary barriers to protect communities.

These include the Foss Barrier in York, the Thames Barrier in London and another in Bewdley, Worcestershire, on the River Severn.

UK power operators say they have employed extra engineers and call centre staff to respond to any possible impact of the storm, after widespread power cuts last weekend.

Newly appointed Environment Secretary George Eustice said he had spoken to local flood response groups across the country on Friday.

Highlighting the Environment Agency’s preparations, he added: “We are fully focused on ensuring that communities are protected and have access to the support and advice they need to stay safe this weekend.”

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Media captionThis Hebden Bridge book shop has a sign which doubles up as a flood barrier

The Met Office has issued amber warnings for rain in pockets of northern and south-west England and Wales from 12:00 GMT on Saturday until 15:00 on Sunday, and in parts of Scotland from 12:00 GMT to 20:00 on Saturday.

An amber warning is also in place for most of southern England from 00:15 GMT until 18:00 on Sunday.

There are 20 flood warnings – meaning flooding is “expected” – and 211 flood alerts – meaning flooding is possible – in place across the country.

Yellow warnings for strong winds and heavy rain also cover all of England, Wales and southern Scotland between 09:00 GMT and midday on Sunday.

Further yellow warnings for wind are in place for northern parts of the UK from midday on Sunday until midday on Monday – potentially bringing travel disruption to commuters.

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