Weather puts harvests in jeopardy

By Rebecca SheppardTHE region continues to be battered by the remnants of hurricanes, with the wet weather putting harvests in jeopardy.There has already been 3.

By Rebecca Sheppard

THE region continues to be battered by the remnants of hurricanes, with the wet weather putting harvests in jeopardy.

There has already been 3.74in of water falling on Suffolk this month compared to an average rainfall for August of 2.28in.

A number of flood warnings were in place last night across rain-drenched Britain, with the Environment Agency putting a flood alert on East Anglia.

Suffolk police also warned of flooding in the north of the county following yesterday's heavy rain, with roads in Halesworth, Southwold and Blythburgh the worst hit.

They urged motorists to be aware of standing water of the road and to drive with extra care.

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East Anglian Daily Times' weatherman, Ken Blowers, said the wettest day so far in Suffolk had been August 10 when there had been 1.10in of rain.

However, the thermometer readings have remained high, with the mercury reaching above 80F on August 7 and 8.

A third of an inch of rain fell in the downpours yesterday morning, pushing the month's rainfall closer to the last wettest August in 2001, when 4.54in poured down on Suffolk.

This August has been washout in comparison to the same month last year, which only saw 0.26in of rain fall in Suffolk.

However, this month's total is still some way short of the amount of water that fell in August 1999, when 5.54in made it the wettest August since 1916.

Mr Blowers said: "It's been unsettled weather throughout the summer, since the middle of June, which is very rare.

"The characteristic of this summer is the frequent torrential downpours and the outlook for the next three to four days is going to be these heavy showers.

"While people first thought that the holiday weekend would see an improvement in the weather, it looks like it's going to continue in the present vein of heavy downpours and bright intervals for the foreseeable future."

He added: "We keep getting the tail end of tropical hurricanes that go towards the USA and then they return again, moving eastwards across the north Atlantic.

"We end up with the remnants of them, but we have not only had the remnants of one of them but two or three. The current one we are getting the remnants of is Hurricane Danielle."

Chris Knock, chairman of the National Farmers' Union in Suffolk, said this year's harvest was being held up because of the weather.

"The corn needs to be nice and dry in order to get the quality that you need. First of all, when it is very wet, you can't harvest at all and if it stays wet you have to harvest grain with a higher moisture content and then dry it down afterwards, which is an added expense," he added.

Mr Knock said more than three inches of rain had fallen on his arable and pig farm in Stowmarket, equivalent to the weather prospect in winter.

"With that much rain the ground becomes sodden, so even if the corn dries out the soil conditions are too wet for the machinery to go across the field," he added.

"While farmers are set up with combines with large tyres that can go, the tractors and grain trailers tend to be the ones that are affected."

Mr Knock said if September arrived and the corn had still not been harvested, the farmers would have to weigh up the value of the crop and how much it would cost to harvest it.

"It is easier to harvest the crop. It is a difficult decision to spend all year growing a crop and then plough it straight back in. It is a huge investment to produce a crop," he added.

Meanwhile, swimmers have been warned they could face dangerous pollution caused by stormy weather - even on beaches praised for their cleanliness.

The warning came from the Marine Conservation Society, which said bathers' health was at risk when swimming after excess rain and floods.

Thomas Bell, of the Marine Conservation Society, said the problem arose from beaches having combined sewer overflows and storm water outfalls. He added during heavy rain sewage was diverted away from treatment plants to prevent them overflowing and was discharged directly into rivers and seas.

Mr Bell said beaches with normally excellent water quality could be affected and bathers were ignorant of the dangers.

Anglia Water spokesman Gareth Rondel said most beaches in the region would have combined sewer and storm water outfalls.

"They are by no means exceptional, they are a normal part of discharging sewage," he added.

"What you have to bear in mind though is that because this happens during heavy rainfall that the sewage will be very dilute and it is further diluted by the huge expanse of water it is going into."