On the 8 January 2005 the city of Carlisle in north-west England was severely flooded following 2 days of almost continuous rain over the nearby hills. Orographic enhancement of the rain through the seeder–feeder mechanism led to the very high rainfall totals. This paper shows the impact of running the Met Office Unified Model (UM) with a grid spacing of 4 and 1 km compared to the 12 km available at the time of the event. These forecasts, and forecasts from the Nimrod nowcasting system, were fed into the Probability Distributed Model (PDM) to predict river flow at the outlets of two catchments important for flood warning. The results show the benefit of increased resolution in the UM, the benefit of coupling the high-resolution rainfall forecasts to the PDM and the improvement in timeliness of flood warning that might have been possible. Copyright © 2008 Royal Meteorological Society, © Crown Copyright 2008.