April 23 2014 Latest news:
, Senior reporter
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Trees have been toppled, cars crushed, homes damaged and roads flooded in a series of storms that have been battering Redbridge.
A silver lining is visible in the clouds as forecasters expect the conditions to calm through this week.
Met Office spokesman Nicola Maxey 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 past few weeks,” she said.
It will be wet and windy thanks to a continuing procession of Atlantic low pressure systems from the jet stream until mid-March, when spring will make a welcome arrival.
The River Roding was on flood alert for much of January – the wettest on record – and car parks and fields have been turned into temporary lakes by surface water with nowhere left to run.
The latest storm to arrive on Saturday brought down scaffolding in Ilford and lifted the roof from a trolley shelter with extraordinary gusts of 80mph.
But the extremes have become commonplace through a winter that has been mild and stormy in contrast to last year’s blanket of snow.
Meteorological expert Scott Whitehead, better known as the Wanstead weatherman, has been recording the changes from a weather station in his back garden.
Scott, 41, has been monitoring and predicting the weather since he was at school and now runs a Twitter account with forecasts for around Wanstead.
His readings show that this winter, from December, has been the second wettest since records began 132 years ago.
Only 1914/15 saw more rain, when troops were suffering in the sodden trenches of the First World War.
This winter is also one of the warmest, with a mean temperature of 6.5C – 1C above average.
Although it has only been 10 per cent windier than last winter, there have been some of the strongest gusts since Scott started recording data in 2012.
He said the movement of the jet stream, an air current in the upper atmosphere, is to blame for the recent run of violent Atlantic storms.
“Some people are saying this is the start of a new ice age, but in all honesty no one really knows why it’s happening,” he said.
“This time last year the stream was really far south, which let all the Arctic air come down from the Pole and made it really cold.
“Now it’s pretty much on top of us and there are a lot of depressions under it.”
It is the depressions that created what the Met Office dubbed a “conveyor belt of storms” rolling across the Atlantic and hitting England over the last months.
They have brought an incredible 263.4mm of rain with them since December, which on January 3 was falling at a torrential rate of 23mm an hour.
Leaving parts of England underwater for months, flooding was also a worry for hundreds of Redbridge homes along the River Roding. In October 2000 more than 300 properties were flooded along the river, prompting a huge plan to alleviate the risk by the Environment Agency.
Commenting on Scott’s blog, Don Bingley, recalled how melting snow used to hail annual floods near Ilford Lane. He said houses a quarter of a mile from the river were flooded “regularly between 1946 and 1950” and a bank built as a defence was easily overcome.
Scott does not think snow will add to problems this year: “There have only been eight winters since 1960 without snow so I don’t want to say it but we might not even get any falling this year,” he said.