Severe weather turns deadly in U.K., forces young climate activists to cancel meeting: "A bleak irony"

By Haley Ott

/ CBS News

Bomb cyclone triggers massive flooding in U.K.

London — As Britain entered its second week of punishing rain, wind and flooding, a group of young climate change activists said they were forced to cancel their first ever national conference due to the extreme weather.

"There's a bleak irony in our being beaten back by climate change," 15-year-old Sophia from London said in a statement released by the U.K. Student Climate Network via Greenpeace U.K. "We are now living in an age of climate storms – where the most extreme weather of the last century is becoming the norm in this one."

One woman is believed to have died in the flooding caused by Dennis, the second major storm to hit the United Kingdom in two weeks. Two men reportedly drowned in the ocean as high winds churned up huge waves over the weekend, and another man was killed after falling into a river in Wales, Britain's LBC radio news reported.

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A month's worth of rain was forecast for parts of the U.K., further inundating areas that were just catching their breath after last week's storm, Ciara, slammed Britain and parts of Europe with over 90-miles-per-hour winds.

Storm Dennis Causes Flooding In The UK
Passers by look out over a flooded parking lot as water levels in the River Ouse continue to rise on February 17, 2020 in York, England. Getty Images

A record 634 flood warnings were issued Sunday across the U.K., according to the government's Environment Agency. On Monday, more than 200 remained in place, some of them for severe flooding, prompting officials to warn of a danger to life.

Emergency government funding was released to help those in affected areas.

"We'll never be able to protect every single household just because of the nature of climate change and the fact that these weather events are becoming more extreme," said British Environment Secretary George Eustice. He added that authorities had "done everything that we can do with a significant sum of money, and there's more to come."

Weather forecasters said Monday that some rivers in the north of England had yet to peak as Dennis continued to dump water on communities that were already sodden. Last week, Ciara caused major flooding and disruption in many of the same areas affected by Dennis. In Wales, authorities called the scale of the flooding "unprecedented," with some of the highest water levels on record in 40 years.

"People are furious," one resident, Adelle Stripe, told Britain's Guardian newspaper. "We've had three serious floods in eight years; what is happening here is evidence that climate change is real."

Dennis has also battered other parts of Europe, with nine people injured in weather-related car accidents in Germany. Flooding and disruptions to transportation were reported in France, Norway and Denmark.

"The longer we wait to take the action we need, the harder it will be, and the bigger the risk of it being too late," Sophia, the young climate activist, said.

First published on February 17, 2020 / 11:07 AM

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Haley Ott

Haley Ott is the digital reporter/producer at CBS News in London.