February 14, 2014 – BRITAIN – Princes William and Harry rolled up their sleeves Friday to help out with flood defense efforts as Britain braces for another hammering Friday from a major storm off the Atlantic. The princes showed up at 6 a.m. local time in the flood-hit village of Datchet, west of London. The community is one of several in Berkshire and Surrey to have been hit by flooding in recent days after the River Thames burst its banks. Nearly 6,000 homes have been inundated along the Thames Valley and elsewhere following England’s wettest January in 2½ centuries. A car dealership’s display model sits on a ramp above floodwaters in Datchet, England, on Monday, February 10. Britain has been hit by bad weather since early December, and swaths of southwestern England have been flooded in continuously stormy weather. Some communities in low-lying areas of Somerset, in southwest England, have been under water since December. And there’s no letup in sight just yet. The Environment Agency has warned of more flooding along the Thames over the weekend as the river reaches its highest level in 60 years. A powerful Atlantic storm that is blowing in on Friday will add to people’s woes. It comes only two days after a storm blasted western Wales and northwest England, as well as parts of Ireland, with gale-force winds. Some 450,000 properties were affected by power outages as a result of Wednesday’s storm. Only 16,000, almost all of them in Wales, were still without power Friday morning, according to the Energy Networks Association, but high winds could cause new problems.
The severe weather has affected travel, with many trains delayed or canceled. A sea wall under one coastal section on the main rail line to the southwest collapsed after high seas pummeled it. There were 18 severe flood warnings, meaning a danger to life, in place Friday, most of them in southeast England. Warnings of high winds are also in place for parts of southern England. In the past few days, more than 1,000 homes have been flooded in well-heeled communities along the Thames Valley, including Maidenhead and Windsor, where Queen Elizabeth has a castle. The Environment Agency warned the area could expect “widespread flooding affecting significant numbers of properties and whole communities and significant disruption to travel” in the coming days. Central London has been protected from flooding by the Thames Barrier, which prevents high tides surging up the tidal river when it is already full. The Met Office, the UK’s national weather service, said the recent series of winter storms “has been exceptional in its duration, and has led to the wettest December to January period in the UK since records began.” But it’s not yet able to say whether climate change is a factor in the extreme weather, as some observers have suggested. “As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding. This is in part due to the highly variable nature of UK weather and climate,” it said. –CNN