Rivers burst their banks and flooding hits south as 15C blast of air from Madeira brings heavy rain


Rivers burst their banks and flooding hit the south of the UK today as warmer air from Madeira brought heavy rain and temperatures as high as 15C.

The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning yesterday for rain across much of the south of England and Wales, in effect until 6am. 

More than 30,000 homes and businesses were left without water as rapidly melting ice overwhelmed mains causing pipes to burst across the country.

Sussex and Kent are worst affected with South East Water saying there were 300 per cent more bursts than normal, The Telegraph reported.

View from the air of the River Frome at Wool in Dorset which has burst its banks, flooding fields after prolonged heavy rain

View from the air of the River Frome at Wool in Dorset which has burst its banks, flooding fields after prolonged heavy rain

Vehicles drive through floodwater on a road at Muckleford near Dorchester in Dorset after the River Frome burst its banks after prolonged heavy rain

Vehicles drive through floodwater on a road at Muckleford near Dorchester in Dorset after the River Frome burst its banks after prolonged heavy rain

There is set to be a respite from the heavy rain today with many areas likely to see sunny spells instead

Daytime highs of between 10C (50F) and 12- 13C (54-55F) are expected on Tuesday and Wednesday

There is set to be a respite from the heavy rain today with many areas likely to see sunny spells instead

However, there is set to be a respite from the heavy rain today with many areas likely to see sunny spells instead.

Daytime highs of between 10C (50F) and 12- 13C (54-55F) are expected on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Its forecast said: ‘Any rain in south-eastern and eastern England is due to clear, then many areas are likely to see some fairly mild winter sunshine. 

‘Scattered showers are possible in western fringes, turning heavy and squally in northwest Scotland with gales.’

One woman shared images showing throngs of people queuing up for water bottles after their supply was cut off due to the sudden extreme change in weather.

Tracey Hill-Fairclough told of how she had heard from other residents in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertforshire, yesterday that taps and faucets had stopped working.

The 53-year-old was shocked upon discovering that this was in fact due to pipes thawing promptly following last week’s sub-zero temperatures.

Accountant assistant Tracey told of how business owners and shopkeepers were left without boilers and school pupils were sent home by 10am.

Water supply company Affinity Water appeared on the scene last night, providing rations of bottled water in an attempt to quell needs as repair work continued.

View from the air of the River Frome at Wool in Dorset which has burst its banks

View from the air of the River Frome at Wool in Dorset which has burst its banks

One woman shared images showing throngs of people queuing up for water bottles after their supply was cut off due to the sudden extreme change in weather

One woman shared images showing throngs of people queuing up for water bottles after their supply was cut off due to the sudden extreme change in weather

Images show show a large white lorry parked next to a Starbucks store, unloading several stacks of large water bottles from its flatbed

Images show show a large white lorry parked next to a Starbucks store, unloading several stacks of large water bottles from its flatbed

Images show show a large white lorry parked next to a Starbucks store, unloading several stacks of large water bottles from its flatbed.

Residents can be seen waiting in the dark, wrapped in their thermals as they queue in the cool air.

Tracey took to social media last night to share her shock, writing: ‘Queuing for water was not something I thought I would ever have to do. This was at 11pm, very surreal.’

Unsettled weather is due to reassert itself between Thursday and Saturday.

There will be showers and longer spells of rain across the country, with gales for some southern coasts and hills.

Temperatures will be generally mild, but becoming colder across the far north with some snow showers expected. 

Dr Stephen Burt, a meteorology expert at the University of Reading, where temperatures have changed from minus 5C last week to 12C on Monday, called it an ‘extraordinary rise of almost 20 degrees in a few days’.

He explained how the sudden rise had been caused by a change in airmass after warmer air travelled rapidly north from Madeira.

‘Very mild and humid tropical maritime air from the region of Madeira transported quickly north and eastwards to our islands because of the development of a major North Atlantic depression over the past couple of days,’ Dr Burt said. 

‘The tropical airmass displaced a cold and dry northerly airflow which persisted over the British Isles for most of last week, and several clear nights allowed widespread severe frost to develop. 

Unsettled weather is due to reassert itself between Thursday and Saturday

Unsettled weather is due to reassert itself between Thursday and Saturday

The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning yesterday for rain across much of the south of England and Wales, in effect until 6am

The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning yesterday for rain across much of the south of England and Wales, in effect until 6am 

‘The British Isles often lies on the border between cold, dry Arctic airmasses and those originating from well south of our latitude, and such changes from very cold to very mild, or vice versa, are very much a feature of our winter climate – although not often with the degree or rapidity of the changes experienced within the past 24-36 hours.’

He added that people in the UK ‘will certainly welcome the reduction in energy bills’ as warmer temperatures kick in.

Water supply was cut off to 15,000 homes and businesses across the south east after the Arctic blast turned into a 15C thaw.

Customers in Kent and Sussex have been left without running water following drastic increases in burst pipes and leaks, a water company said. 

The Environment Agency issued 12 flood warnings and 51 flood alerts. 

So far, this month is set to be one of the coldest Decembers since 1900, averaging just 0.8C (33.4F) in Central England – some 3.8C (6.8F) below normal. 

The only years colder in the first half of December were 2010, with an average of 0.2C (32.4F), and 1981. 

More than 100,000 properties suffered burst pipes following the December 2010 Big Freeze, causing £680million of damage. 

Burst pipe insurance claims rocketed 1,000 per cent after the ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018. 

The winter of 1962-63 was brutally cold, with ten weeks of temperatures as low as -22C. But that didn’t start until Boxing Day – so the December average was higher than this year. 



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