U.K. Storm Prompts Rare Rainfall Red Alert as 3rd Man Dies

By Christopher Jasper | February 18, 2020

U.K. weather forecasters issued the country’s first red warning for rainfall in almost two years as downpours from Storm Dennis fell onto ground left waterlogged by an earlier Atlantic cyclone.

The red alert, issued by the Met Office early Sunday for the hills and valleys north of Cardiff, Wales, indicates a threat to life from fast-flowing rivers and rising waters, as well as a high risk of flooding, damage to buildings, power cuts and disruption to rail services and roads.

Police said later a man died after falling into the swollen River Tawe in the west of the region, while four forces in Wales and western England declared special incidents as residents were evacuated from submerged towns.

Environmental authorities in England, Wales and Scotland issued more than 350 flood warnings, recommending immediate action by residents, together with four severe warnings highlighting a risk to life.

The death in Wales came after two bodies were retrieved from the sea in Kent, east of London, on Saturday as Dennis began to pummel the country. Hundreds of flights have been canceled over the weekend, affecting travel plans for more than 50,000 people, with carriers including EasyJet Plc and British Airways revising their schedules in advance to minimize last-minute disruption.

The threat from flooding is particularly severe because large swathes of the U.K. have been left sodden by Storm Ciara, which also claimed two lives, with water having had no time to drain away, according to the Met Office.

“We don’t issue red warnings lightly,” media forecaster Nigel Bolton said by telephone. “They indicate a significant level of concern.”

The last red warning came on March 1, 2018, as Britain was lashed by the “Beast From the East” storm system, which unlike the current Atlantic cyclones blew in from Siberia, bringing freezing conditions and heavy snowfall.

Prior to that there had been no red alert since December 2015, when a number of warnings were issued during Storm Desmond and subsequent systems that saw Britain’s highest-ever rainfall.

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