Britain braced for exceptional weather

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The country is set to be hit by high tides, heavy rains, strong winds and more severe flooding.

Exceptional weather is expected across the whole of the UK and Northern Ireland, with a high risk of flooding expected around this morning’s high tides posing a significant risk to coastal towns and villages - particularly in the south.

The Environment Agency has issued 21 serious severe flood warnings which means there is a threat to life or property.

These affect areas in the south west, Gloucestershire and Wales.

Homes in Newport were evacuated last last night(Thur) because of the risk of flooding as Wales prepared for the highest tides in 17 years.

The EA has also issued 194 flood warnings across England and Wales and a further 229 flood alerts.

Heavy rain and winds gusting up to 60mph are due to hit western areas, prompting fears of widespread disruption.

Waves of more than 30ft (10m) are expected to hit Devon and Cornwall, where the authorities are warning people to stay away from shorelines, where there are 14 severe flood warnings and 60 flood warnings.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who chaired a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee, yesterday warned energy network companies to be prepared, following complaints it took too long to restore electricity to the thousands of homes left without power in the wake of severe weather over Christmas.

The EA said: “The flood risk will extend along the UK coastline from north-west England, through Wales and south-west and southern England. Areas particularly at risk include the Isles of Scilly, the north and south coasts of Devon and Cornwall, Dorset and the coastline of Wales.”

The storms have already claimed at least two lives in Cornwall and in north Devon.

The AA, which has attended 1,500 call-outs from those stranded due to floods since December 23, said some drivers were failing to heed warnings.

Darron Burness, head of the AA’s flood rescue team, said: “Our patrols have seen it all in that time - including people ignoring road closure signs, blindly following their sat-nav or other drivers into deep water and 4x4 drivers naively thinking their car has amphibious qualities - and time and again they hear the same excuses that the driver didn’t think the floods were very deep or that their car could deal with it.”