Northern Ireland news

Ice and sub-zero temperatures due overnight as agencies work to combat floods

Rescue workers wade through floodwater in the centre of York after the River Ouse burst its banks (Danny Lawson/PA)
Laura Parnaby and Danielle Desouza, PA

Ice and snow are on the way for much of the UK while a “huge operation” is under way to contain flooding in areas affected by recent rain.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for ice across the centre of the UK covering all four nations, hundreds of flood warnings are in place, and temperatures are due to drop below zero in most places overnight.

Snow showers are predicted to hit northern areas on Sunday evening, with hill snow developing in central areas and rain sweeping the south.

Temperatures are expected to drop overnight to minus 2C in London, minus 1C in Cardiff, and minus 3C in both Edinburgh and Belfast, while Highland areas of Scotland could see minus 10C.

Ian Withers, an Environment Agency worker for 30 years, said a “huge operation” is under way to control overflowing rivers in Somerset – an area particularly prone to flooding because it is below sea level.

Mr Withers told the PA news agency that water levels in several rivers are currently “higher than the land around them” and surrounding moors are being used as “reservoirs” to contain the overspill.

The duty manager for the Wessex area said: “The situation at the moment is, catchments are just extremely wet and saturated.

“I think we’ve seen the worst of this wet weather pass through and we’ve got a few more settled days ahead which is really helpful.

“But as a consequence of all the rain we’ve had over the last week or so, the big rivers – the Severn, the Avon, the Wye – they’re so full with water, and that water has now got to work its way out of the estuaries into the sea.

“While they’re still high those pockets of flood risk will remain.”

Mr Withers said between 10 and 20 homes have been flooded in Wessex, and Environment Agency workers from Yorkshire have been drafted in to help prevent further damage.

He added that residents in some towns have invested in their own flood defences to ensure protection from encroaching water even if it reached their windows.

Mr Withers said he believed the flooding is the latest example of “a changing climate in the shape of seasonal extremes” and “society as a whole needs to think about how much it is prepared to spend” on mitigation measures.

The Government spent £2.6 billion on flood resilience between 2015 and 2021, and it will spend double this funding over the next five years, he said.

Pensioner Jilly Jay, 65, who lives in the Somerset town of Taunton, told PA that the River Tone was “pouring over the bank in places” and the flooding in her area was “pretty bad”.

Meanwhile, Cardiff resident Pam French said water damage in the city was almost as bad as it had been in the February 2020 deluge.

She said that the city’s park run had been cancelled on Saturday due to the route being overrun with water.

A large Met Office yellow warning for ice covers Wales and the Wessex area until 10am on Monday, along with Northern Ireland, southern Scotland, northern England, northern Wales and the Midlands.

The national forecaster has also issued a lengthy yellow warning for snow and ice across northern Scotland from 2pm on Sunday through to 10am on Wednesday.

Another warning for snow across parts of south-east England has been issued for Monday, lasting from 2am until 8am.

Met Office meteorologist Craig Snell warned those driving to work on Monday to leave plenty of time for their journeys, as the worst of the ice is expected to be during rush hour.

“We could well see some wintry showers develop tonight across the middle band of the UK, with a risk of snow on high ground and slippery surfaces on lower areas,” he said.

“This could be a problem during rush hour, it could cause a few problems on the roads. The risk of flooding is still there.”

Mr Snell added that while “cold and wintry weather” coming from the Arctic is set to “dominate the UK” through the week, the weekend looks milder.

“Compared to the cold spell in December, it doesn’t look like it’s going to last as long,” he said.

Earlier, flood defences, including boarding, were deployed in York city centre.

City of York Council said it had taken the measures to keep the area “safe and open” as it urged visitors to plan their journeys in advance.

Rescue workers were seen using a boat to navigate floodwater in the centre of York after the River Ouse burst its banks.

The Environment Agency had issued 98 flood warnings and 180 flood alerts in England as of Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has issued three flood warnings for areas of the Scottish Borders, Tayside and Ayrshire and Arran, along with two milder alerts for West Central Scotland.