Excessive rainfall has caused widespread flooding in parts of northwestern England, with the U.K. weather department issuing red alerts — its most severe warning — for Lancashire on Saturday. “Very severe weather conditions are expected,” the Met Office said in an advisory on its website.
“Widespread flooding will lead to severe disruption to travel and danger to life,” the weather department added.
— Daria Neklesa (@DNeklesa) December 26, 2015
In addition, the U.K. environment agency on Saturday issued severe flood warnings — its highest level — in seven areas around River Ribble at Ribchester and River Calder at Whalley. Five flood warnings were issued for River Calder, River Ryburn, Cragg Brook, Hebden Water and Walsden Water areas in Yorkshire. The agency also issued 149 flood warnings for northwestern and northeastern U.K. as well as parts of Wales.
Homes in Ribchester and Whalley in Lancashire are being evacuated and people have been urged to stay away from flood-affected areas, BBC reported. The Environment Agency has advised affected residents to "take action now to make sure that they keep themselves safe."
The Lancashire Fire Department tweeted that 500 to 600 people were being prepared to be evacuated from the town Saturday.
Floods Minister Rory Stewart reportedly said some flood-hit areas could have a month’s rainfall in a day onto the ground that’s already saturated. Met Office forecasters said up to 120mm of rain could fall over the most exposed sites in northern England on Saturday. The average rainfall in northwestern U.K. for the whole of December is 145mm.
“Certainly what we've seen is rainfall levels that nobody's ever seen before," Stewart told BBC’s Radio 4’s Today program. On Friday, the army was called in to support efforts to protect parts of the Cumbria County in northwest U.K. from further flooding and to evacuate its residents.