The deluge, described by residents in the worst-hit parts of Yorkshire as “almost biblical”, resulted in a slew of Environment Agency flood warnings as homes were evacuated, forcing the Government to call a Cobra emergency meeting to deal with the crisis.
Researchers with the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology (CEH) said the 3.1in (77.8mm) of rainfall during a 24-hour period over November 7-8 in Doncaster, which was one of the places badly affected by flooding, was likely to happen only once every 60 years.
Elsewhere, flooding around the River Derwent exceeded notable weather events in the last 20 years, the CEH said.
Annie Hall, the former high sheriff of Derbyshire, died after she was swept away by the river in Darley Dale, near Matlock.
Nick Reynard, CEH science area head for hydro-climate risks, said: “The amount of rainfall, and precisely where it falls, the land surface and how saturated it is, and the existing flood management schemes are just some of the factors that make the precise nature of each flood hard to predict in detail.
“Land management can play a role in helping to prevent or control flooding, such as the use of floodplains or retention ponds or selected small-scale measures to reduce runoff rates.
“However, man-made flood defences are still required along with these more ‘natural’ schemes as a basket of flood management solutions is necessary to better manage flood risk.
“Unfortunately, nothing can be done to prevent flooding everywhere at all times.”
Experts said it was “too early” to attribute the flooding to climate change.
It comes as South Yorkshire Police continue work to identify a body found on a road affected by recent floods.
Officers said the man’s remains were found in Fordstead Lane near Barnby Dun, in the Doncaster area, on Saturday.
The road, between Barnby Dun and Arksey, was under water for a fortnight after the River Don burst its banks.
The Met Office said more than half a month’s worth of rain fell in one day across parts of the UK from Tuesday into Wednesday, with further heavy downpours forecast across the country in the next 24 hours.