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Flooding, heavy rain as thunderstorms sweep UK and Ireland

Thunderstorms and flood warnings replace heatwave, drought in UK and Ireland.

August 16, 2022
By Rebecca Speare-Cole and Claudia Rowan
16 August 2022

Heavy rain and flooding have hit Cornwall and Devon as thunderstorms sweep across south-west and east England, plus parts of Ireland.

The Met Office issued an amber thunderstorm warning for areas of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset with the likely chance of homes and businesses flooding, power cuts, fast flowing or deep floodwater causing danger to life, transport disruptions and communities being cut off by flooded roads.

In Ireland, Met Eireann extended a status orange thunderstorm weather warning for Munster as well as counties Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly, Kildare, Wicklow and Dublin.

The downpours came after the heatwave ended on Sunday night with thunder, lightning and flash flooding in many places.

Yellow warnings are also in place for most of the UK on Tuesday and for southern England on Wednesday.

Weather graphic

It comes after weeks of little rain and warm conditions caused droughts across parts of the UK, leaving land parched.

The National Drought Group on Friday moved parts of the South West, southern, central and east into official drought status, while six water companies have already or are planning to impose hosepipe bans.

Inverness in Scotland was hit by heavy rain on Sunday, with photos shared online showing water leaking through the ceiling of a Vue cinema and flooding a Tesco store.

Summer weather Aug 15th 2022
Parched grass at St Nicholas' Park in Warwick (Jacob King / PA)

Met Office meteorologist Tom Morgan said while most places had been spared, it was a different story in the south-west of England.

"We have seen some flooding in parts of Cornwall and Devon … (with) very difficult driving conditions, flash flooding, some hail with the thunderstorms and some lightning."

He said the flooding was "causing potential for some power cuts and some potential flash flooding, particularly in towns and more urban areas.

"There are also thunderstorms in east-coast areas in Suffolk, Essex and Lincolnshire. There is just as much potential for tomorrow to be as impactful as it has been today."

Ruan Sims, manager of a tyre and auto garage, told the PA news agency that the road has flooded in the past but he has never seen the water go that high.

He said the water flooded in suddenly as the rain started but then fully drained away about 10 minutes later and the sun came out.

"It was quite mad. We have never seen it go that high," he said.

"It didn't go into the garage but it came right up to the wall."

Visitors to the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port use umbrellas amid forecast storms after the heatwave (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

Professor Hannah Cloke, an expert in hydrology at the University of Reading, explained why there was the potential for floods in drought-hit areas.

"The ground is really dry and when it is so dry, it acts a little bit like concrete and that water can't get in so it drains straight off,” she said.

"There is the damage to homes and businesses these floods can cause, and inconvenience with transport disruptions, but if it is very heavy in one place it can also be very dangerous."

Prof Cloke said with heavy rain in a city, the drainage system could cope up to a point but if there was “really heavy rain”, it could overwhelm the system as it could not run away quick enough.

In rural areas, this sort of flooding often hit low points in roads and under bridges, making it “very dangerous” to drive through flood water.

Prof Cloke added that when it came to recovering from the drought, this was “a drop in the ocean … we really need a long winter of rain to replenish this."

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