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Storm Desmond: Penrith and Carlisle, Cumbria

On Friday 4th December, the Met Office issued a yellow warning for wind across most of the north of the UK, with gusts expected to reach 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) in south-west Scotland.  An amber warning for rain was issued in parts of central and southern Scotland, Tayside and Fife; forecasting up to 200 millimetres (7.9 in) of rain on high ground over a 30-hour period.  On Saturday 5th December, the Met Office raised the yellow warning to a red severe weather warning for rain in Cumbria, with 150 millimetres (5.9 in) to 200 millimetres (7.9 in) expected in some places.  The Environment Agency had severe flood warnings in place for parts of the River Tyne in Northumberland and across Cumbria.

As Storm Desmond, an extratropical cyclone, took hold the worst affected areas were Cumbria, Lancashire and the Scottish Borders.  In Cumbria our Mountain Rescue colleagues from the Lake District Teams experienced increasing number of callouts.  With over 100 flood warnings and more than 70 flood alerts now in force and over 1000 homes at risk of flooding; Cumbria police declared a "Major Incident" with Mountain Rescue running a Silver command unit, and weather reports of prolonged storm conditions it became clear that the efforts would last throughout the weekend.   

On the morning of Saturday 5th December, the Lake District Mountain Rescue Teams (MRTs) requested support from fellow MRTs across the country.  The Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation's "Water group", made up of Buxton MRT, Derby MRT, Glossop MRT, Kinder MRT and Woodhead MRT; were asked to respond with water trained resources.  PDMRO sent seven Swift Water and Flood Water Rescue Technicians(DEFRA Module 3 - SRT), six Water First Responders (DEFRA Module 2 - WFR) and three team vehicles to Penrith Fire Station on Saturday evening where we were joined by two more SRTs and a DEFRA Module 6 Tactical Adviser from Edale MRT with a team vehicle.  There were a few taskings to assist Penrith MRT with incidents in Appleby.  

As Penrith MRT were stood down at around midnight for some much needed rest, the PDMRO teams re-located to Penrith MRT HQ, from where they redeployed to Carlisle.  The teams worked throughout the night responding to requests for evacuation and checking on vulnerable and elderly people, and responding to 999 incidents when required by the Police.  The teams stopped at 5:30am for some rest and recuperation at a school reception area in Carlisle, heading back out to continue the evacuations along with water teams from other organisations.

The BBC Cumbria news webpage had the following statistics.

  • £500m estimated cost of the damage
  • 45,000 homes lost power
  • 5,200 homes flooded
  • 1,000 homes without electricity for up to four more days
  • 50 miles of road diversions after latest Glenridding flood
  • 1m (3ft) high water reported





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