A woman died and homes were evacuated as widespread flooding left a trail of devastation across swathes of the Midlands and northern England on Thursday evening and Friday.
Some parts of England got more rainfall in just 24 hours than they normally would in a single month, with more than 100 flood warnings issued – including six warning of a risk to life.
Torrential downpours described as “almost biblical” led to some residents, including young children, being rescued from their homes by boats.
Yorkshire and the Midlands were the worst-affected areas. As Thursday evening wore on, residents evacuated from the suburb of Bentley in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, were told they would not be able to return to their homes. Some refused to leave, staying in upstairs rooms for fear of looters targeting their homes in the run-up to Christmas. Others spent the night with relatives.
Meanwhile, rescue teams continued to lay down sandbags in the area in an attempt to stem the flow of water that continued to rise, while police cars surrounded the area and emergency services stood by.
In Derbyshire, police pulled a woman’s body from the River Derwent in Darley Dale, close to Matlock, after reports of a person being swept away in Rowsley in the early hours of Friday.
Mountain rescuers and emergency services using a helicopter and drone led the search.
Boris Johnson visited Matlock on Friday evening and said “we need to prepare and we need to be investing in defences” but said he did not feel the flooding was “looking like something we need to escalate to the level of a national emergency”. Asked what the government was doing to support people during floods, the prime minister said: “We’ve got a huge programme of flood defences and flood preparation - there’s £2.6bn going into it and I think £50m has gone into Derbyshire alone. But in the end, you’ve got to face the reality that places like this are vulnerable to flooding – we’re going to see more of it.”
Residents of Toll Bar, near Doncaster, made comparisons with the floods that devastated local communities in the summer of 2007.
Toll Bar Post Office worker Kathleen Overton, 61, said: “It was almost biblical, I would say. You were just looking out of your window in disbelief at how much of it was coming down.
“People’s cars were getting submerged in the water, gardens were ruined, you couldn’t drive anywhere. It was carnage.”
In Sheffield, stranded people were forced to take refuge at the Meadowhall indoor shopping centre, camping overnight to shelter from the rising waters outside.
Saskia Hazelwood, 17, a student from Doncaster, who was among those trapped, said: “We instantly started panicking and, when we found out there was no way of getting home, we went into Primark and all bought spare clothes and we bought food and drinks to keep us going throughout the night.”
Some of the city’s schoolchildren had to wade through freezing knee-high floodwater to get home on Friday.
Derbyshire was hit with more rainfall in 24 hours than it normally gets in a single month. The Environment Agency’s gauge in Glossop, a market town on the edge of the Peak District, recorded 114mm of rain in the 24 hours up to 4am. Derbyshire usually receives an average of 90.7mm of rain in November.
At Glossop Caravans, staff had to move dozens of vehicles to prevent them being submerged. Receptionist Kirstie Booth said: “Someone came in and said it was nearly up to their knees at one point on the main road.”
According to the Met Office, 75.6mm of rain fell in the 24 hours up to 6am on Friday – the monthly average for the whole of November in Yorkshire is 89.7mm.
Related: Flooding in Yorkshire – in pictures
South Yorkshire fire and rescue service received nearly 1,200 emergency calls in 24 hours and said it had rescued more than 120 people.
As the clean-up operation began on Friday, the weather calmed – with little or no rainfall across the Midlands and north, bar the odd isolated shower. Forecasters said a weather front would move from Wales towards the east of England on Saturday but would fizzle out by the evening.
Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said of the outlook for Saturday: “It may linger a little bit over the Midlands, I would be looking at Oxfordshire, Warwickshire. But we’re not expecting significant rainfall. As of the moment, there’s no plans to issue any warnings for that.”