What a difference a year makes

By Danielle Nuttall and Annie DavidsonTHIS time last year a stampede of sunseekers arrived at beaches and parks across the UK as temperatures soared through the 100F barrier for the first time.

By Danielle Nuttall and Annie Davidson

THIS time last year a stampede of sunseekers arrived at beaches and parks across the UK as temperatures soared through the 100F barrier for the first time.

But 12 months on, millions of people will be postponing the traditional summer picnic as the region braces itself for yet more downpours.

A scorching new record temperature of 38.5 C (101F) was set at Brogdale in Kent on August 10 last year.

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A year on and it was a complete contrast yesterday as East Anglia saw 1.10inches of rain fall by 8am - the heaviest downpour in 24 hours since September 19, 2001.

The torrential rain caused problems in Essex as police dealt with a number of accidents on the county's roads, but conditions were better for drivers in Suffolk.

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Three men had a miraculous escape after the Range Rover and Mitsubishi 4x4 they were in collided on the A12 at Kelvedon and careered down an embankment onto an adjoining slip road at 6.30am.

Acting Sgt Kevin Carter, of Stanway traffic police, said the Range Rover driver, a 55-year-old man from Southend, was taken to Colchester General Hospital with chest injuries.

His passenger was uninjured and the Mitsubishi driver, a man from Coventry, declined hospital treatment.

About an hour later police were called to the adjoining carriageway where a vehicle had aquaplaned into the central reservation, but the driver, a 43-year-old man from Walton on the Naze, was uninjured.

Three or four vehicles on the opposite carriageway then had a minor collision after motorists slowed down to look at the accident.

Police were also called to the B1026 near Great Wigborough after a lorry containing human waste overturned.

It is believed the vehicle lost control due to poor weather conditions at 8.30am between Stafford's Corner and Salcott-cum-Virley near the junction with Abbots Wick Lane.

The 38-year-old male driver, from Ipswich, was believed to have kicked out his cab window to free himself and was taken to Colchester General Hospital suffering from chest, face, neck and leg pains.

A woman also suffered minor injuries after her car skidded off the road near Peldon after she swerved to avoid a puddle.

Elsewhere in the country, a hospital casualty ward was closed after it flooded, homes were evacuated and trains using the Channel Tunnel were delayed.

Although forecasters said the storms showed signs of abating, there were 28 flood warnings last night in place in the North East, 27 in the Midlands, one in the North West and one in the Anglia area.

The torrential downpours were caused by a belt of heavy rain that moved in overnight and lashed most of England and southern Scotland, with only Wales and the South West avoiding the worst of the downpours.

It was caused by the remnants of Hurricane Alex, which hit the U.S. last week, picking up moisture as it crossed the Atlantic.

The accident and emergency department of Whiston Hospital in Merseyside was flooded by six inches of water, causing patients to be moved to other parts of the hospital and new arrivals diverted elsewhere.

A small number of homes had to be evacuated due to flooding in Sutton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire, while nine homes in the village of Laneshawbridge, Lancashire, had to be evacuated after water ran 12 inches deep.

Arriva Trains Northern said services were disrupted between Leeds and Morecambe, Carlisle and Skipton, due to flooding, while the Sheffield Supertram was held up in the Hillsborough area after cars blocked the road due to the floods.

The rain also caused a build-up of humidity that affected signals in the Channel Tunnel.

That led to delays of up to four hours for passenger shuttle trains departing from the English side of the tunnel and hold-ups of three hours for French-bound freight shuttle trains.

The London to Paris and Brussels Eurostar trains were also delayed, some by up to 90 minutes.

Weather experts said in contrast to last August's record-breaking spell of dry, sunny weather, many parts of eastern and northern England have seen a full 24 hours of rain.

RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire saw 3.57in (90.8mm) of rain fall between Monday and yesterday - the highest amount of rainfall in the country.

East Anglian Daily Times weatherman, Ken Blowers, said there should be a brief dry spell today, but forecast: "Showers are expected to return tomorrow and Friday and some will be heavy. There is no real sign of an improvement during the weekend."

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency warned the tempestuous weather would only get worse with global warming.

It said six of the seven warmest years on record had occurred since 1990 and predicted average temperatures in the UK would increase by between 2C and 5C by the end of the century - particularly in the South East.

The agency warned that without reducing emissions, the changeable nature of Britain's summer weather would only get worse.

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