Brace yourself for floods, warn forecasters – a wetter winter is on the way

Winter is expected to be wetter than normal, the Met Office has warned, with the public being urged to prepare for floods.

Britain has experienced its rainiest summer in a decade, and there are indications that the coming months could bring a particularly wet spell.

The Met Office said rainy conditions were likely to be at their worst in January and February, based on its assessment of "the big global drivers that impact UK weather".

It comes at the start of the Environment Agency’s flood action week, which encourages people to sign up for flood warnings, check the flood risk of their home and educate themselves on what to do in the event of flooding.

The awareness drive has been prompted by research suggesting that more than 60 per cent of households in flood risk areas do not believe their property is in danger of flooding, according to the agency.

While 70 per cent of households were found to have taken some steps to prepare for their home flooding, 30 per cent had done nothing, a recent survey has suggested.

If replicated across England, this could mean as many as 1.5 million homes at risk of flooding are currently unprepared, the Environment Agency said. It is estimated that 5.2 million properties in England are at risk from floods.

Will Lang, head of civil contingencies at the Met Office said: "Winters in the UK usually include a wide variety of weather, and this winter looks to be no exception.

"However, when looking at the big global drivers that impact weather in the UK there are indications this winter could be wetter than normal. Although these wetter conditions are most likely in January and February next year, details will become clearer nearer the time and information can be found on the forecast pages of our website."

The Environment Agency said it had 250 mobile pumps and 6,000 trained staff ready to take action to protect communities from flooding this winter, while the construction and repair of flood defences has continued throughout the year.

In late October, when parts of the country had a month of rain in 24 hours, some 79 households were flooded – but more than 3,300 properties were protected by flood defences.

People at risk of flooding have been urged to prepare by packing medicines, insurance and other important documents in the event their area is given a flood alert. If this escalates to the next highest level, a flood warning, the Environment Agency recommends moving family, pets and belongings to safety, while turning off gas, water and electricity.

The most critical alert, a severe flood warning, means households are advised to survive immediate danger by following the advice of emergency services.

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Caroline Douglass, the executive director of flooding at the Environment Agency, said: "Now is the time for us all to be vigilant, not complacent, about flooding.

"We can’t prevent all flooding – climate change is only increasing that risk – and figures show that, while some people are prepared, many are not. It’s vitally important for the public to go online and check if they are at risk, sign up for Environment Agency warnings and know what to do if flooding hits."

The Met Office has said that, although wet, the period is likely to be mild. Its computer forecast model concluded that there would be a 60 to 80 per cent chance of higher than average temperatures between December and February.

The November to January outlook said that "consistent with a warming climate, there is a reduction in the chance of cold."

However, DTN – which provides weather information for the BBC – predicted that winter was more likely to be cold. Its long-term forecast said: "This winter is likely to feature a weak polar vortex, bringing increased cold risks from Arctic air masses later in the season. January and February could feature frigid air, similar to last year."

Accuweather, another major forecaster, said that "the opportunity for prolonged bouts of cold air will arrive across Northern Europe, especially across Ireland and the United Kingdom."

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