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High likelihood, high impact Red warning of Rain, 5 December 2015

Cumbria and Southern Scotland 5-6 December 2015

The frontal systems associated with Storm Desmond to the east of Iceland, meant that the UK was located in a mild, moist south-westerly airstream. These fronts brought exceptionally prolonged and heavy rainfall as the air was forced to rise across high ground.

Many parts of north-west Britain had already recorded more than twice the monthly average rainfall during November, so the rainfall associated with Storm Desmond fell on already very wet ground conditions.

Honister Pass in Cumbria recorded 341.4mm of rainfall in the 24-hours up to 1800 GMT on 5 December 2015 making a new UK record.

The same period of rainfall also set a new 48-hour record (from 0900 to 0900 hrs) with 405mm rainfall recorded at Thirlmere in Cumbria in just 38 hours.

Storm Desmond - 48 hour rainfall totals
Site Name Area Rainfall Total (mm)
Shap Cumbria 262.6
Keswick Cumbria 178.4
Blencathra Cumbria 174.8
Capel Curig Gwynedd 170.6
Tyndrum Perthshire 141
Eskdalemuir Dumfriesshire 139.2
Bainbridge North Yorkshire 136
Cluanie Inn Ross & Cromarty 132.8

This is how the warnings matrix looked on 5 December 2015.

Red Warning



Warning verification results

The weather warning was subsequently verified with the results discussed and confirmed with the Public Weather Service Customer Group. The overall results were that the warning gave good guidance to NW England, scoring 7 out of 9 and excellent guidance to Southern Scotland, scoring 8 out of 9.


  • The record-breaking rainfall associated with Storm Desmond caused severe disruption flooding 5,200 homes across Lancashire and Cumbria.
  • Several major roads across the north of England and Scotland were flooded and there was major disruption to rail services in the north of England while a landslide closed a section of the West Coast mainline between Preston and Carlisle.
  • There was flooding in some of the major towns across Cumbria with evacuations and rescues taking place from Keswick, Carlisle, Cockermouth, Appleby and Kendal.
  • Several bridges collapse including the A592 at Pooley Bridge.
  • 61,000 homes in Lancaster lost power when the electrical substation was flooded.
  • The Scottish Environment Protection Agency's (SEPA) first ever severe flood warnings were issued for Hawick and Newcastleton
  • 300 homes were evacuated in Hawick in the Scottish Borders as the River Teviot overtopped, with other properties evacuated in Newcastleton and Langholm.

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