Agency issues flooding warning before rain hits dried-out ground

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The drought conditions gripping parts of Yorkshire could increase the risk of flash flooding in the face of heavy rain, the Environment Agency has warned.

Two unusually dry years have left the whole of the South East, East Anglia and parts of Yorkshire in a state of drought, with parts of the South West and the Midlands also suffering from dry conditions.

Seven water companies introduced hosepipe bans to try to conserve supplies in the face of low river, reservoir and groundwater levels – a move that was followed by widespread rain, which proved a welcome relief for gardeners.

But the Environment Agency yesterday warned that future heavy rain could lead to flash flooding because of the drought conditions.

Dry, compacted soils mean rain is less easily absorbed into the ground, increasing the likelihood of flooding.

The Environment Agency said a dry winter and spring in 2007 contributed in some areas to the devastating floods in the summer of that year, which hit the West Country, Midlands and Yorkshire.

Parts of the country had similar conditions as those currently seen in drought-afflicted areas, before the heavy rain hit in June and July 2007.

The Environment Agency made its warning about the increased risk of flash flooding as it unveiled the first social media flood warning application on Facebook. “Floodalerts” can be found by putting the term into Facebook’s search facility.

The Agency hopes the measure will complement its existing Floodline Hotline and website updates to warn of flooding risks.

Flood incident management head Craig Woolhouse said: “As the drought in England continues, the thought of flooding may be far from people’s minds, but we cannot ignore the risk. “

Over the next few days the UK will see more sunshine and showers – some heavy – but lighter, more continuous rain which can soak into the ground, rather than simply running off, is needed to tackle dry conditions.