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Thursday, June 30, 2022

‘Danger to life’ warnings in West Midlands after flooding | Flooding

Residents in areas of England affected by flooding have been urged to remain vigilant as two severe “danger to life” warnings remained in place after heavy rainfall.

They came as the Met Office issued yellow weather warnings for Scotland and parts of Northern Ireland which included predictions of heavy snow, gusty winds and the chance of the relatively rare phenomenon of thundersnow.

Three back-to-back storms, Dudley, Eunice and Franklin, have combined over the past week to bring travel chaos, injury, power cuts, tree loss and flooding to parts of the UK. At least three people are known to have died as a result of Eunice.

The worst of the weather appears over for now but anxiety remains high for flooded areas.

The two severe flood warnings are in Bewdley, Worcestershire, and the historic village of Ironbridge, Shropshire.

In Bewdley search and rescue teams were out checking properties and speaking to residents after temporary flood defences were breached after heavy rain on Tuesday afternoon.

Barriers hold back flood water in Bewdley after storms and heavy rainfall caused the River Severn to rise.
Barriers hold back flood water in Bewdley after storms and heavy rainfall caused the River Severn to rise. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Environment Agency said the water level peaked on Wednesday lunchtime at 5.33m and levels are forecast to “remain high for a prolonged period”.

Nick Green, area incident manager for the Environment Agency for the West Midlands, said it had been “incredibly frightening” for the community in Bewdley, which has faced regular flooding in recent decades.

He said: “We could really see the anxiety and the worry that they had knowing that the river was going to rise and the impact that it could have on their lives.”

Dan Bond, flood duty manager at the Environment Agency, said: “We are still facing a significant flooding risk, and we are urging people to remain vigilant and take extreme care.

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What is thundersnow?

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The Met Office says the phenomenon is meteorologically identical to the thunder and lightning storms that take place in summer, just with snow instead of rain or hail.

This means it can look and sound different. Lightning reflecting off snowflakes appears brighter, and the thunder is muffled by snow drifts. During a summer storm, the thunder can be heard many miles away, but during a thundersnow event it will only be heard if you are within 2-3 miles of it.

Thundersnow is rarer than regular thunderstorms, since elevated convection – moist air rising into the troposphere to produce thunderstorms – rarely happens at temperatures that support snowfall.

Thunderstorms develop when a front of warm air collides with colder air making the atmosphere unstable. As warm air rises it cools and condenses, forming small droplets of water to create a cumulonimbus cloud in less than an hour. As the warm air continues to rise, the water droplets form ice crystals, and circulating air in the clouds causes water  to freeze on the surface of the droplet or crystal. Eventually, the droplets become too heavy to be supported by the updraughts of air and they fall as hail.

Lightning is formed when the negative charge of the hail rubs against smaller, positively charged ice crystals and they discharge in a flash of lightning. The rapid expansion and heating of air caused by the lightning produces the accompanying loud clap of thunder.

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“Last weekend’s heavy rainfall on already wet areas continues to cause river flooding along the River Severn and is likely to continue over the next few days.”

In Ironbridge councillor Shaun Davies, leader of Telford and Wrekin Council, said the water was just 20cm away from breaching barriers. “It’s only through the grace of God that these barriers have not been topped again.”

The Met Office yellow warning for Scotland and Northern Ireland is in place between 5pm on Wednesday until 8pm Thursday.

The warning has changed from snow and wind to snow and lightning. The latter means there is a chance of thundersnow,where snow dampens the sound of the thunder and reflects the lightning, making it seem brighter.

All of the UK will feel colder on Thursday as a cold front sweeps through.

The recent storms led to 1.48m households and businesses losing power. The Energy Networks Association said on Wednesday that 1,400 customers were still waiting for it to be restored.

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