By Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent, www.guardian.co.uk
20 April 2012
Heavy rain over much of the country, provoking flash floods in some areas and severe weather warnings from the Met Office, is set to continue through the weekend but is unlikely to ease the drought gripping most of England.
Flash floods closed the centre of Pocklington in Yorkshire after heavy rain, and nearby villages and transport systems were affected. In the north-east of England, three flood alerts and one flood warning are in place, while rain can also be expected in parts of the south.
But while the wet weather may put a dampener on the weekend, if you are among the 20 million people covered by drought restrictions at the same time as grey skies and thunderstorms, do not count on being able to use a hosepipe any time soon – the rain is not likely to be enough to recharge reservoirs or even return soil moisture levels to normal, and the picture has varied widely across the country.
Welcome rain has brushed the parched fields of East Anglia – but some of the regions that have seen most rain, in the north-west, north-east and Scotland, have been those that needed it least.
Polly Chancellor, national drought co-ordinator at the Environment Agency, said: "While we've had some welcome rain this week, the drought affecting large parts of England could last until Christmas. The soil is so dry that only steady rain over the winter will restore rivers and groundwater, so we would urge everyone – right across the country – to help by using less water."
The drought now stretches from Cornwall to Yorkshire, covering 40 counties. The Met Office said it had not made any assessment of whether this April could turn into one of the wettest on record, and it was still too early to predict, but some areas have already had close to their long-term monthly average. March 2012 was the driest since 1953, according to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. […]