UK and Ireland floods in December 2015 and January 2016

by Richard Davies

December 2015 saw three storms – Desmond, Eva and Frank – conspire to make it the UK’s wettest month on record. The heavy rainfall brought severe flooding to parts of Scotland, Ireland and northern England, where Honister Pass in Cumbria saw a record-breaking 341mm of rain in 24 hours (to 18:00 GMT, 05 December 2015).

More than 20,000 properties were flooded as a result of the extreme weather. UK insurers estimate they will need to pay out £1.3 billion in flood claims. But it could have been much worse. The Environment Agency said that flood defences in England had protected 12,500 homes during Storm Desmond and 10,900 during Storm Eva.

Flooding River Shannon, Ireland Taken on 11 December, 2015 . Credit: Irish Defence Forces

Flooding River Shannon, Ireland

Taken on 11 December, 2015 . Credit: Irish Defence Forces

Flood defence equipment and personnel were shifted from other areas of England to battle the floods affecting northern counties. The Environment Agency set up 2,300 metres of temporary flood barriers to protect flood-threatened communities. Since the storms, the agency has carried out 16,000 inspections and identified around 660 flood defences needing repair work.

During December, a total of 92 severe flood warnings in England. By the end of the month, the Environment Agency’s SMS flood warning system had sent out over 100,000 messages, and the live flood warning map had received over 650,000 visits.

Storm Desmond

On 05 December, 2015, the Met Office issued a rare red “take action” warning for heavy rain in Cumbria and the Scottish Borders. By 14:00 that day, the Environment Agency had issued 17 severe flood warnings for areas in northern England. The counties of Cumbria and Lancashire suffered the worst of the floods.

Thousands of homes were flooded in the city of Carlisle, where the River Eden reached record levels. One man died when he was swept away by the flooding River Kent near Kendal, in the county of Cumbria, where severe flood damage was also reported in Appleby, Keswick and Cockermouth.

Flooding River Shannon, Ireland Taken on 11 December, 2015 . Credit: Irish Defence Forces

Flooding River Shannon, Ireland

Taken on 11 December, 2015 . Credit: Irish Defence Forces

In Lancashire, the village of St Michael’s on Wyre was one of the worst hit after the River Wyre burst its banks. Heavy rains on 9 December led to further flooding in the village, and flood warnings remained in place in St Michael’s several days after Storm Desmond had passed. St Michael’s was flooded once again a few weeks later, after heavy rainfall from Storm Eva.

In Scotland, the River Nith burst its banks in Dumfries, flooding parts of the town. Around 1,000 people were evacuated in Hawick in the Scottish Borders as a result of flooding from the River Teviot. This exercise would be repeated after Storm Gertrude in late January 2016.


Flooding also affected several areas of Ireland, including parts of Connacht and the counties of Clare, Cork, Donegal and Kerry. The flood threat from high levels of the River Shannon went on long after the storm had passed. On 14 December, Ireland’s Office of Public Works reported that levels of the Shannon were still rising in the mid to lower Shannon basin area. Several communities along the river were affected by flooding, and personnel from Irish Defence Forces were deployed to shore up flood defences in counties including Mayo, Clare, Westmeath and Galway.

Storm Eva

Just 3 weeks after Storm Desmond, heavy rainfall from Storm Eva caused further flooding to areas in northern England. This time around some of the worst affected areas were parts of Yorkshire, including the cities of York and Leeds, and also Lancashire and Greater Manchester, including Salford, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale and Wigan. On 26 December, the River Aire in Leeds, Yorkshire, had reached record levels. By 27 December, the Environment Agency had issued 27 severe flood warnings, mostly for northern England. Around 9,000 properties in the north of England were flooded as a result of Storm Eva.

Storm Frank

Storm Frank brought further heavy rain on 30 December, causing severe flooding, this time mostly in Scotland, where the overflowing River Nith once again flooded Dumfries. The River Tweed and Eddleston Water caused flooding in Peebles and the River Dee in Ballater, Aberdeenshire. Three deaths were reported – in Cornwall, Moray and the Highlands – as a result of Storm Frank.

For more info, visit the Floodlist website

FloodList is supported by Copernicus, the European system for Earth monitoring.


  1. Thanks for the article Richard and link to Floodlist, certainly an interesting few months. If you’re interested then we have further information on Storms Desmond and Frank here:

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