What has been causing the storms wreaking havoc in Dartford and Gravesend?
PUBLISHED: 10:36 20 February 2014 | UPDATED: 10:37 20 February 2014
Violent storms have brought misery to north Kent over the last month as incessant rain and extreme winds wreaked havoc.
What caused the extreme weather?
The seemingly endless run of terrible weather was caused by what the Met Office dubbed a “conveyer belt of storms” sweeping across the Atlantic Ocean.
January and the start of February saw a succession of weather systems bringing winds, at times gale force, and persistent rain to the country.
This extended a sequence of deep lows that began in mid-December.
Persistent rainfall from the monster weather systems made January the wettest on record for many places.
From December 12 to the end of January some stations in the south of England recorded more than five months worth of rainfall.
Kent received well in excess of 200 per cent over the average, causing drainage problems, surface water floods and warnings that rivers could burst their banks.
Source: Met Office
Between Friday and Saturday last week, firefighters dealt with about 200 incidents caused by the storm, which brought gusts of up to 80mph.
The winds even ripped a hole in a new apartment building in Greenhithe, which was left open to the elements on one side.
Crews were called to flooded businesses and homes, had to make buildings safe following damage caused by strong winds, move cars hit by falling trees and stop fallen electricity cables sparking.
While some roads were blocked by trees, rail passengers had to deal with delays caused by landslides and debris on the tracks.
It was the latest in a string of storms to hit the county through the winter.
Gales were strong enough to send a metal floodlight crashing down at Ebbsfleet United’s ground earlier this month and trees and debris have caused travel chaos on the roads and railways.
Drivers wanting to use the Dartford Crossing have been stopped by dangerous gusts of 80mph – enough to topple lorries.
The River Darent, one of many swollen by torrential downpours, flooded homes in Horton Kirby and the Cray and Shuttle have both been on alert.
Environment Agency chief executive Paul Leinster said authorities were doing their best to “protect lives, homes and businesses”.
But although the weather has calmed this week, he warned the Thames could still flood.
“With further rain expected in the coming days, after the wettest January on record in England, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better,” he said.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service has had special equipment on standby for floods including boats, adapted fire engines and high-volume pumps.
Assistant director Sean Bone-Knell urged people to take sensible precautions and not to attempt to walk or drive through floodwater.
Hundreds of people living near the Darent and Cray are on floodplains and rely on defences and the Dartford Creek Barrier to protect their homes.
The Environment Agency estimates that the highest risk zone in Dartford and Gravesend has a one per cent probability of completely flooding – expected on average once in a hundred years.
The Thames Barrier and other floodgates downstream have been closed a record number of times in the last month to keep the tide at bay.
Met Office spokesman Nicola Maxey said that the danger of flooding comes not just from rivers but from surface water in our increasingly urban landscape.
“The real issue is that showers can be quite heavy and sharp with 8-10mm falling in an hour, which means there could be an issue with surface water and drainage,” she said.
But there is a silver lining behind the clouds as forecasters expect the conditions to calm through this week.
Nicola said it will soon be back to normal British winter weather – perhaps not much of a consolation.
“We will still be seeing rain and unsettled weather but not the extremes we have had for the last few weeks,” she said.