Do you call this a drought? Heavy downpours sweep Sheffield

Umbrellas in the rain
Umbrellas in the rain

HEAVY downpours are to sweep Sheffield for weeks - making April one of the wettest since records began.

Forecasters predicted the city will be deluged until the middle of May - and warned there could be local flooding.

Council workers have been busy clearing drains and gullies to prevent them overflowing, and sales of umbrellas, wellies and wet weather gear are soaring.

But John Charlton, director of Sheffield Council’s Street Force service, said a repeat of the disastrous floods which hit Sheffield in 2007 was ‘extremely unlikely’ because of low river levels.

“The rivers then were full and the ground was saturated, so the water really had nowhere to go,” he said.

Mr Charlton said they had been clearing drains and gullies “over the last couple of days just to make sure there’s no debris at these critical points”.

But, although the deluge is good news for the county’s reservoirs, the rain won’t be enough to end the region’s drought and top up low river levels.

Above-average rainfall is expected until mid-May as a low pressure system brings gloomy weather to South Yorkshire.

Sally Webb, from forecaster Meteogroup, said showers will develop this afternoon with a chance of thunder, with more rain on Saturday and Sunday.

She said heavy downpours are also in store on Monday, with showers on Tuesday.

“The first half of May is looking to be about average, temperature-wise, but the rainfall is expected to be quite high through the beginning of the month,” Sally said.

“There could be some local flooding, where you’ve got a drainpipe blocked, but there’s not going to be widespread flooding.”

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency - which put South Yorkshire on a drought alert last month - said the rain will not be sufficient to fill rivers to their normal levels.

“The rain this month will help give moisture to soil which will benefit vegetation,” she said.

“It will also help to recharge reservoirs, and river levels may rise temporarily, but it won’t improve groundwater levels.

“Overall we don’t expect the rain this month will make a difference to the current drought situation.

“We would still need several months of above average rainfall to get river levels back to normal.”

At this time of year most of the rain is sucked up by growing plants, or evaporates because it is warm. Groundwater that feeds rivers and mains supplies usually relies on prolonged winter rainfall to fill up.

But Matt Thompson, from Yorkshire Water, said the rainy weather was ‘good news’ for South Yorkshire’s water supplies.

“The weather we’ve had is very much welcome in terms of water resources,” he said.

“This rainfall is helping us to replenish our stocks, whether they be in reservoirs or boreholes. We want to see more of it.”

Matt said reservoir levels were at 90 per cent two weeks ago, but have now risen to just over 92 per cent.

“We needed it - it may seem like a lot of rain but it’s only balancing out,” he said. “If it’s raining it moves us further away from any potential water restrictions.

“The forecasters have been wrong in the past - we may get an absolute scorcher come June, July, August and September.”