More than 3500 homes and businesses are reported to have been flooded over northern England, with 55,000 also experiencing power cuts, as Storm Desmond unleashed unprecedented rainfall across Cumbria and parts of Lancashire during 4-6 December.

The Environment Agency has urged communities to remain vigilant as recovery from the exceptional floods continues and further rainfall is expected. Its teams are continuing to check and maintain flood defences, clear blockages in rivers, put up temporary defences, monitor water levels and work with local flood wardens in the areas worst affected.

Main rivers all across Cumbria have exceeded the highest values ever recorded. All flood storage reservoirs at Carlisle, Wigton, Longton, Kendal and Penrith have been utilised. Provisional figures from a rain gauge at Honister in the Lake District showed 341mm of rain had fallen in 24 hours. The average rainfall for Cumbria for the whole month of December is 146.1mm. If verified, this will be a UK record for 24 hours.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said that flood defences protected 8600 homes across the north of England and, in thousands of other instances, provided vital time for homes and businesses to be evacuated as well as reducing the impact. However unprecedented levels of rainfall meant that the water in some areas has risen to levels never seen before and, although flood defences performed as they were designed to and have delayed and reduced the impact, some overtopping has occured in places.

“Since 2009 we have invested £45M in new defences in Cumbria but we will need to learn lessons and reflect on what we can learn from this extreme weather event," Truss said, adding that the government takes the risk of flooding "very seriously" and is investing £2.3B in 1500 flood schemes throughout the country to protect 300,000 homes.