Amber “be prepared” alerts for severe weather on Wednesday have been issued for most of the west of Scotland and a flood alert remained in place in Tayside as floods caused widespread devastation across the north of England.
Some 500 soldiers have now been brought in to deal with “unprecedented” flooding in Yorkshire and Lancashire, with one thousand more on stand-by. Rescuers have been evacuating homes in York where water levels are near record levels in the historic city centre and still rising, while thousands of people in north-west England are without power.
The River Ouse in York is more than 5 metres above its normal summer levels and is predicted to keep rising until lunchtime today. West Yorkshire Police declared a major incident after responding to the “worst flooding in 70 years” with main roads in Leeds city centre remaining under water in what local MP Hilary Benn said were the worst floods the city had seen. In Greater Manchester, 7,000 homes were still without power after rivers burst their banks.
There are scores of flood warnings in Scotland, England and Wales – more than 20 severe, meaning danger to life.
The flooding in northern England has thrown the holiday travel plans of many motorists and rail passengers into disarray.
Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee, vowing to help people in “their hour of need”.
He said: “What has happened – the level of the rivers, plus the level of rainfall has created an unprecedented effect and some very serious flooding.
“The flood barriers have made a difference – both the permanent ones and the temporary ones – but it’s clear in some cases they’ve been over-topped, they’ve been overrun, and so of course we should look again at whether there’s more we should do.”
Emergency financial assistance will also be put in place for affected areas, and homes and businesses damaged by flooding will have access to the same package of support announced for those affected by Storm Desmond.
Rail passengers have been told not to travel between northern England and Scotland unless their journey was “absolutely necessary”.
“First TransPennine Express are advising passengers not to travel between Preston and Scotland/Barrow-in-Furness/Windermere,” the company advised.
Rainfall could range from 20mm up to 120mm in extreme exposed areas of Dumfries and Galloway, said the Met Office. Severe gale force winds of 50-60mph are expected in much of the country.
Ian Robinson, a forecaster with the Met Office, said the weather will remain windy and wet until Thursday.
He said: “The main thing this week is the band of rain that’s going to come in and move across the country slowly during the course of Wednesday.
“And that rain is going to be persistent and at times very heavy, particularly across Dumfries and Galloway and the western Borders and up into Argyll, western-central Scotland, Perthshire-Tayside area and perhaps even up into southern Aberdeenshire.
“We’re expecting quite a lot of rain across those areas on Wednesday.
“The amber alert across Scotland is highlighting the area most at risk from fresh flooding.”
A flood alert from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) remains in effect for Tayside and a more severe flood warning for the River Earn from Innerpeffray to Bridge of Earn.
Last night there were still 24 flood warnings in place in the north-east of England – warning of a risk to life – while there were a further 115 flood warnings and 102 flood alerts across Wales and much of western England. As well as communities in northern England, areas around the River Severn in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and Worcestershire are also at risk.
Many places have seen record river levels over the past 24 hours, including the River Aire in Leeds, and the rivers Calder and Ribble in Lancashire, affecting places such as Whalley, Hebden Bridge and Ribchester.
Three Day Forecast
Today: “Quiet”, bright and breezy with a band of rain pushing across Scotland later in the day
Tomorrow: Yellow warning for wind but easing up later even as rain gets heavier
Wednesday: Amber alert issued for much of Scotland for heavy rain moving slowly across the country