More storms with heavy rain and winds of up to 80mph are headed for the West Country this evening, raising fears of more flooding, as the River Severn at Tewkesbury remains on flood alert.
Temperatures are again expected to fall well below freezing in places tonight, prompting to add an ice warning to a severe weather warning already issued by the Met Office. The South West, Wales and the south of England are expected to be worst hit.
The latest storm pushing in from the Atlantic will arrive in the west this evening before spreading north-eastwards overnight, causing disruption in the morning.
Curry Moor and Hay Moor on the Somerset Levels, as well as the A361 between Burrowbridge and East Lyng are the only other two flood warnings in the region, though many areas are on flood alert, the next level down.
The poor forecast comes as the chief executive of one of the UK’s biggest power distributors admits its efforts to restore power to thousands of people should have been better.
Basil Scarsella, chief executive of the UK Power Networks, told The Mail on Sunday that the company was not prepared for the storm and too many staff were on holiday.
George Goodfellow, a forecaster for MeteoGroup, said: “Normally, we would say this is a typical winter storm but because we’re still recovering from a string of other storms it is likely to cause more disruption and flooding.”
He said the South West will continue to bear the brunt of the storm, which will add to the misery of thousands who have been left without power and endured flooded homes over the Christmas period.
The Energy Networks Association said about 3,000 homes across the UK are still without electricity.
UK Power Networks, which owns electricity lines and cables in London, the south east and east of England, said it will increase payments for 48 to 60-hour outages from £27 to £75 for those affected on Christmas Day as “a gesture of goodwill”.
Additional payments will be made to customers who have been without electricity for longer than that time – up to a maximum of £432.
Some 1,300 properties have been flooded during the recent storms in England, the Environment Agency said, while flood defences have protected more than 80,000 properties.
It warned the predicted rainfall meant there is a “continued heightened flood risk” across southern England, especially south west England where river levels remain high and the ground is already saturated.
Large rivers such as the Thames, Severn and Great Ouse in Cambridgeshire are most at risk of flooding, while high water levels on the River Medway and Stour in Kent will cause continued flooding and travel disruption, the EA said.
A Downing Street spokesman said ministers held a COBRA meeting yesterday where it was agreed financial assistance will be given to local authorities facing an undue financial burden because of the storms through a process known as the Bellwin scheme.
Energy secretary Edward Davey is also in talks with UK Power Networks to insist on a clear public timeline for work to get power back on, he added.
The spokesman said: “Crucially the Government is pushing councils to have a clear plan for if they face flooding over the new year.”
Environment minister Dan Rogerson is in talks with insurance companies and the Association of British Insurers, while the Government has asked EA representatives on the ground to identify which insurance companies are not moving fast enough, the spokesman said.
Met Office forecaster Charlie Powell said the unsettled weather looks set to continue into the new year.
“It certainly looks a very wet and windy picture,” he said. “On New Year’s Eve another band of rain will push in from the west. It will be a dry start to Wednesday but the unsettled weather will be around for quite some time into the new year.”
Craig Woolhouse, the EA’s head of flood incident management, said: “With more wet weather expected early next week we are monitoring rivers and working to protect communities from flooding with our partners in the emergency services and local authorities.
“We urge people to stay safe and avoid driving or walking through flood water and visit the Environment Agency website for advice and sign up for flood warnings.”
The EA said its teams will remain on duty to operate pumping stations, issue flood warnings and check that flood banks, walls and barriers are working effectively.
Some 71 flood alerts and 14 more serious flood warnings remain in place across the country.