Warning climate change will see more road closures in Scotland as A77 reopens after flash flooding

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ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners and the Met Office have warned weather-related disruption to key transport links will become more common, after part of the A77 was closed for hours on Sunday.

The warnings came as the Met Office issued yellow weather alerts for large parts of the UK this week.

The A77 southbound was closed between the Bellfield Interchange outside Kilmarnock and Dutch House Roundabout north of Prestwick for two and a half hours on Sunday, and the northbound carriageway closed for an hour. Surrounding communities also suffered short term flooding after heavy rain on Saturday and Sunday.

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The key commuter route is the main west coast link with Prestwick Airport and the Stranraer Ferry and a common route connecting the central belt with Ardrossan and the Arran Ferry.

The Met Office, which issued a yellow weather warning covering the area on Sunday, and a further one for the Highlands last night [Monday], is also warning of a high risk of thunderstorms in the West of England today [Tuesday] and further storms covering much of Scotland on Wednesday.

Transport Scotland subcontracts the maintenance of trunk roads in the area to Scotland TranServ, which is responsible for ensuring drains are clear and contingencies are in place during severe weather. A spokesman for Scotland Transerv said 15 mm of rain had fallen in the immediate area in the space of an hour on Sunday night – around 1/6th of the total volume of rain for the whole of July. He said drainage had simply been overwhelmed by the quantity of rainfall running rapidly from nearby fields into the system.

 Flash flooding on the A77 sparks travel chaos

“The immediate area experienced an intense downpour, with Scotland TranServ’s drainage system fully functioning throughout this period. The intense volume of rainfall and the excess surface water pouring onto the carriageway from already saturated fields adjacent to the trunk road, overwhelmed the drainage system and resulted in the flooding,” he said, adding: “We will work with local landowners to better understand the source of the problem.”

A spokeswoman for the Met Office said an excess of heat and moisture in the atmosphere had made it unstable. “Eventually things go bang if there’s enough energy there”, she said. “With climate change we are expecting the UK to get more intense bursts of rain and longer dry periods in between”. A spokeswoman for SEPA said the agency had issued an alert for the Ayrshire and Arran area giving advanced notice of the flooding. “Thunderstorms are localised but intense, they can begin suddenly with little warning, and could impact anywhere in Scotland. ”

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said Scotland, and the whole of the UK, can expect more heavy rain and flash flooding as a result of climate change. “It used to be that flooding was mostly a problem that happened in the winter, but big summer storms mean that communities and infrastructure can suffer flooding at any time of year,” he said.

“There is already more rain than in the past because of climate change and there will be even more in the future, so the threat of the flooding is increasing year on year.”

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While reducing climate emissions is the priority, Dr Dixon said authorities should also be planning for a world where flooding is more common and more serious. “That means not building in flood plains protecting rail and road infrastructure and even removing some properties that can no longer be protected,” he said.

Current estimates of flood risk prepared by the Scottsh Environmental Protection Agency suggest that Scotland has 284,000 properties, businesses and services at risk of flooding.

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