Severe rainfall and winds pelted Britain on Thursday, after a storm in the region could prompt flooding and put lives at risk in eastern Scotland, Britain’s national weather service has warned.
The worst of the rainfall is expected to hit Scotland on Thursday, where autumn is typically wet and windy and floodwaters this month submerged streets, damaged railways and swept away unharvested crops. But a red alert beginning Thursday evening — the highest rain alert issued by the weather agency, the Met Office — signaled the possible severity of the incoming Storm Babet, and officials urged residents to brace for dangerous conditions.
The storm brought a deluge to parts of Ireland on Wednesday, causing river waters to spill over banks and flooded businesses and main streets. In the Irish town of Midleton in County Cork, more than 100 properties were flooded, local authorities said, and the Irish army dispatched help evacuate residents.
Forecasters said the storm would move farther north toward Scotland, where they predicted more than a month’s worth of rain would fall between Thursday and Friday, with some areas expecting 250 millimeters, or 9.8 inches, of rain. That is more than fell in Scotland in the entire month of October in 2022 — about 196 millimeters, or 7.7 inches. With previous rainfall already filling rivers and saturating catchments, the weather service has urged residents to prepare for torrential rain that could flood homes, cut off power and other essential services, and leave communities isolated for several days, the agency said. The fast-flowing and rising floodwaters, it added, could pose a “danger to life.”
Winds of more than 70 miles per hour were also likely on Thursday, the weather agency said, especially near Scottish coastlines, which are vulnerable to landslides.
With weather warnings in Scotland and other parts of Britain kicking in on Thursday, local authorities and residents in several areas braced for the potential havoc. The police in Scotland warned that the weather would likely cause widespread disruption to roads in several areas and advised people to avoid travel. The Scottish government said it was coordinating with emergency services to try to mitigate disruptions.
The brunt of the storm is expected to affect the northeastern Scottish regions of Angus and Aberdeenshire, and local officials have cleared gullies and offered sandbags to residents trying to protect their property from floodwater.
Network Rail, which oversees Britain’s railway infrastructure, closed several train routes and advised people living near railways in Scotland to secure tents, trampolines and garden furniture to prevent them from blowing onto tracks. Wind gusts had already surpassed 60 miles per hour in one town, according to the group’s weather specialists, and the heaviest rain had begun falling on Thursday morning.
The weather agency last issued the highest extreme rain alert in 2020 during Storm Dennis, which left at least three people dead and submerged streets in parts of England, Wales and Scotland. The storm was one of the most intense to batter the North Atlantic and raised questions about the country’s preparedness for intense flooding.
While it is difficult to attribute individual weather events directly to climate change, scientists say that a warming planet leads to worsening extreme rainfall in many storms.