Flood warnings as wind and rain hit England and Wales

Media caption,
Environment Agency spokesman David Throup: "People need to keep aware of the situation"

Strong winds and heavy rain have brought down trees and power lines across England and Wales.

The Environment Agency has issued warnings of localised flooding in the South West, Midlands, North East and East of England.

Thousands of homes in south Wales, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Somerset have been left without electricity.

And a police officer was seriously injured when a tree fell on the van he was driving in Hampshire.

The heavy rain comes as many areas are currently in a state of drought following two unusually dry winters.

Forecasters say an area of heavy rain and strong winds has been spreading northwards across the southern half of the UK, with more than 38mm (1.5ins) of rain falling in some places overnight.

The Met Office said: "The public should be aware that this may lead to some local flooding given the recent wet conditions, and that north-easterly winds will exceed 50-60 mph in some locations, bringing the risk of falling trees."

It has now lifted an amber "be prepared" warning for the River Severn and its tributaries in Shropshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.

The Environment Agency (EA) has more than 25 flood warnings in place on rivers including the Wid in Essex; the Ouzel at Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire; the Derwent in East Yorkshire, and the River Stour in Warwickshire.

Most are for the South West, and include several rivers such as the Yarty at Axminster; the Torridge at Bideford, and the Otter at Honiton, in Devon, and the sections of the Brue and Doniford Stream in Somerset.

Among those areas also subject to warnings were parts of the Ouse at York, where the river flooded footpaths following torrential rain on Thursday. The Ouse is currently 9ft 2in (2.8m) above normal summer levels, the EA said.

A flood warning also relates to riverside properties in Chelmsford, and the area around the Essex County Cricket Ground in the city.

There are more than 170 alerts in place, warning of possible flooding in areas throughout England and Wales, except for the North West and Cumbria.

Image caption,
Scaffolding on a building in Notting Hill, west London, was brought down by the wind

In other developments:

Also in Wales, drivers are also being warned to take care on the M4 because of fallen trees, and one lane became blocked eastbound near Bridgend. Firefighters in south, mid- and west Wales say they have been busy dealing with minor weather-related calls.

Between 40mm and 60mm of rain has been forecast for east Wales.

BBC weather forecaster Darren Bett said the heavy rain moved northwards into Scotland during the afternoon but a new front would see wet and windy conditions return to the south-west of England and Wales overnight and into Monday morning.

He added that more rainfall was forecast for the rest of England later in the week while the generally dry conditions in Scotland and Northern Ireland would continue.

Drought unaffected

The weekend downpours come at the end of a wet week for England and Wales, in which 42mm (1.7in) of rain fell in the South East and 55mm (2.2in) in the South West, which has now had 166% of the average rainfall for April.

Image caption,
The King's Staith in York following a week of heavy rain

An Environment Agency spokesman said: "The Environment Agency is closely monitoring the forecast and rainfall particularly in Worcestershire, as the river levels are already higher than normal in the rivers Severn, Teme and Avon.

"Environment Agency officers are out monitoring river levels, checking defences and clearing any potential blockages, such as fallen branches and debris, to reduce the risk of flooding."

The Environment Agency said all regions had now received above average rainfall for April, boosting river levels and providing relief for farmers, gardeners and wildlife in drought areas.

But it also said that groundwater levels remained low and the rain was not yet making a difference to the drought conditions.

Soil affected by prolonged dry weather increases the risk of flash floods because heavy rain quickly runs off hard, compacted ground.

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