ENVIRONMENT experts have urged ‘at risk’ Cumbrian communities to prepare for flash floods.

The Environment Agency has asked home-owners to form action plans after drawing up a list of places vulnerable to flooding if heavy rain returns.

It follows a year of heavy rain which has left rivers full after the wettest April to June on record, followed by more deluges in July, September and October.

The earth is saturated and in many areas there is no more space left in aquifers to store water that seeps through from the surface.

The agency warns that people should be ready for floods even with relatively small amounts of rain.

Areas highlighted as being at risk include Dalton-in-Furness, Appleby, Miln-thorpe, Ambleside, Gras- mere, Troutbeck Bridge, Coniston, Spark Bridge, Ulverston, Kendal, Staveley, Burneside, Backbarrow, Car-tmel, Cark, Flookburgh, Milthrop, and Sedbergh.

Flooding officers have begun contacting homes and businesses to explain the risks – and an information leaflet was due to be delivered to some this week.

Flood and coastal risk manager Mark Garratt said: “If your community is at risk, think about developing a flood action plan, so that you know what to do and where to go if flash flooding occurs.

“We are sending letters and leaflets to people living and working in the communities at highest risk of flash flooding encouraging them to talk to us and develop personal and community flood action plans. These plans are simple and practical and can help people take swift action to protect their homes and families.

“Once you have developed your action plan, it’s important to know the signs that indicate flash flooding could be imminent. Look out for heavy rain, rising water levels with churning, dark water or a build up of debris in rivers and streams.

“People living and working in basement or single-storey accommodation are partic-ularly at risk, as are people staying in tents and caravans or people unfamiliar with the area, such as tourists. It’s important that your action plan considers warning friends and neighbours, and knowing where to go if you get caught in a flash flood.

“Never walk or drive through floodwater as it only takes 15cms of fast-flowing water to knock an adult over and 60cms to sweep away a 4x4 car or small lorry.”

The North West has experienced flash flooding a number of times. In August, around 80 homes and businesses were damaged in Egremont when Skirting Beck flooded with rain and drains were overwhelmed.

For more information and advice go to www.environ-ment-agency.gov.uk/flood.