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Thousands evacuated as Storm Christoph hits UK with disruptive snow and historic flooding


Around 2 300 homes have been evacuated overnight Thursday, January 21, 2021, amid widespread flooding and dangerous snow across parts of the United Kingdom brought by Storm Christoph. The storm prompted more than 200 flood warnings, with five of them severe, and has pushed River Dee to its highest level since a water gauge was installed in 1996.

Storm Christoph brought some heavy, and at times record-breaking, rain to parts of the UK over the past 2 days, according to data provided by the UK Met Office.

Provisional figures show Honister, in Cumbria, received 123.8 mm (4.87 inches) of rainfall on Tuesday, January 19, a new daily rainfall record for this winter and 2021. However, it was well short of England’s all-time January daily rainfall record of 180.4 mm (7.1 inches) set in 2005. 

Provisional figures also show the 19th was the wettest January day since 1954 in Rochdale where 46.8 mm (1.84 inches) of rain was recorded, as well as in Preston (43.6 mm (1.71 inches)) and Stonyhurst, Lancashire (43.8 mm (1.72 inches)).

On January 19 and 20, parts of Cleveland, in North Yorkshire received more than their average January rainfall.

Heavy rainfall has already prompted the declaration of multiple major incidents across England and Wales. Many rivers are at dangerously high levels, according to the Environment Agency.

Widespread flooding forced about 2 300 homes in the Didsbury and Northenden areas of Manchester to evacuate, while residents in Ruthin and Bangor-on-Dee, North Wales, and Maghull, Merseyside, are also affected. 

Councillor Steven Harvey, chairman of the Bangor-on-Dee Community Council, said that emergency services worked overnight to evacuate residents as River Dee reached its highest level since a water gauge was installed 25 years ago.

"People were advised to leave their properties close to the river during the night," said Harvey.

Fari Iravani, a Didsbury resident, told BBC News, "We are trying to hold on as long as we can, and hopefully it will pass. If there is a continuation of the rain and the storm, that's going to be a problem."

Iravani also highlighted the struggles of evacuating amid a pandemic. "During corona where do you evacuate to? You don't want to impose yourself on other people," he said.

As of 06:00 LT on January 21, 'severe flood warnings' are in place for River Mersey at East Didsbury, River Mersey at West Didsbury and Northenden, River Bollin and Agden Brook at Little Bollington (south of Dunham Massey), and River Bollin at Heatley (between Dunham Massey and Lymm).

North Wales resident Dafydd Vaughan told Sky News that the situation in the area was "unbelievable" and "bizarre", with snow aggravating the flooding situation.

"Most of the hill roads are impassable because of snow and most of the lower land roads are impassable because of floods."

While sandbags have been laid to control the flooding, waters had already infiltrated some homes, Vaughan added.

"There are properties flooded at the moment and emergency services are there, the fire brigade's there pumping floodwater out of that area and back into the river."

"It looks like they're successful but when the next high tide comes at around five o'clock we could be looking at a similar situation again."

According to Lee Rawlinson of the Environment Agency, flood basins on the River Mersey at Didsbury protected people's properties in the area overnight.

"The top of the river came within centimeters of the top of the river bank but our defenses there have served their purpose and kept those properties dry. But it was very close."

Meanwhile, Cleveland Police warned of disruption and delays in the Redcar area after the severe weather led to road closures. Multiple crashes were reported on the M5 near Bristol, including a pile-up involving five cars and an overturned lorry, due to icy conditions.

The agency issued more than 190 flood warnings across England and 3 in Wales, five of which are severe. An Amber warning for snow is in place for southeast Scotland. 

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"Exceptionally high river levels brought on by last night's rain could continue to affect parts of the northwest of England today and may also bring flooding to parts of Yorkshire today and Friday, with a risk of damage to buildings in some communities," said Craig Woolhouse, Flood Duty Manager at the Environment Agency.

"There’s also a chance of localized flooding of land and roads across parts of the South of England on Saturday due to further rain. We urge people to keep away from swollen rivers and not to drive through flood water – it is often deeper than it looks and just 30 cm (1 foot) of flowing water is enough to float your car."

"Colder air is now established across the UK as Storm Christoph moves away into the North Sea, and gale-force winds will impact the northeast of the country," Met Office Chief Meteorologist, Paul Gundersen, said.

The cold weather is forecast to continue throughout the weekend and into next week with some sunny spells and wintry showers, mainly in the north and northwest.

The southern half of the UK is likely to be more unsettled with some spells of rain, and perhaps also some snow.

Featured image credit: @richard_hudds/Twitter


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One Comment

  1. Ahhh you poor people you got snow falling to the ground, Really!! we have this for 5 mths in Canada big deal, get over it. Storms happen all the time, just be prepared and back up food stocks and gas generators.

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