Flash floods are dramatic – and devastating. Caused by violent and sudden downpours, they can affect anywhere in the UK and bring traffic to a standstill in minutes. They can be dangerous as there’s not much time to move to safety and their frequency is increasing in towns and cities where sewage systems are unable to cope with the influx of water. Combined with the decrease in green spaces often due to homeowners concreting garden areas for ease of maintenance or new homes being built on floodplains means there is – literally – nowhere for the rain to flow into!
With the phenomenon causing millions of pounds of damage each year and the experts predicting that there will be an increase in the number of flash floods year on year over the coming decades, being prepared to protect your home with adequate flood defence is now more important than ever.
Here are the top 10 flash floods in the UK; don’t let your property suffer in the same way these unfortunate owners found themselves dealing with on their return.
1. Boscastle, Cornwall
Perhaps the most terrifying flash flood the UK has ever witnessed took place on 16 August 2004. Eight hours of unseasonably heavy rain and the villages of Boscastle and Crackington Haven saw a torrent of water hit their stunning locations with terrible effects. The Environment Agency later said in a study that it was one of the most extreme to ever hit the nation. With the local river rising 2 metres in just an hour, a 3 metre high wave was created when a bridge collapsed due to the debris becoming lodged. The result was a 10mph surge of through the villages which took 75 cars, 5 caravans and a number of buildings into the sea. It was fortunate that there were no fatalities.
2. Bournemouth, Dorset
Just a few days before the largest annual event of the year where 750,000 visitors descend on the town to watch the now-famous air show, rain storms hit much of Dorset on 18 August 2011. Bournemouth was worst hit with 20mm pounding the area in one hour and 50mm in the hours before hand. Flash flooding affected much of the town with public transport unable to continue to operate.
3. Bridport, Dorset
Only 11 months later and just a few miles from Bournemouth, the market town of Bridport was hit by a month’s rain in 24 hours. The results of the flash flooding of 7 July 2012 brought the small community to a standstill with emergency services battling to pump out the flood water as it continued to rise. The local weir only just stopped short of engulfing a bridge vital for the emergency services.
4. Holywell, Cambridgeshire
A very lucky escape for a driver who said he had been following the GPS directions to a car park in 2012. Unfortunately the GPS didn’t warm him that the car park was flooded and he was eventually forced to abandon his car.
5. St Asaph, North Wales
It was a terrifying day for the 500 families evacuated from the small town of St. Asaph on 27 November 2012. Life came to a standstill as torrential rain saw the river rise at great speed and flood the surrounding homes, shops and facilities. The banks of the River Elwy burst and residents were forced to leave their belongings behind and move to safety. The worst affected properties were uninhabitable for 9 months and the cost for repairing the flood defences hit £5 million.
6. Fochabers, Moray
Three bridges were destroyed on the 3 and 4 September 2009 when flash flooding hit Fochabers in Scotland. The Burnside Caravan Park was particularly badly hit and the owners were faced with a £200,000 clean-up operation. The mains water pipes were under so much pressure, they could not cope with the surrounding flood water and when it burst thousands of litres of additional water flowed into the adjacent reservoir and burn. The town saw dozens of homes which were filled with water and mass evacuation took place.
7. London and South England
The London Thames Barrier may be in place to keep the majority of the capital safe from flooding but sometimes nature is too strong and the city has to endure major disruption. This was the case when huge storms hit parts of London and surrounding southern counties on 19 September 2014. The eastern boroughs such as Hackney and Bethnal Green were the worst hit by the flash floods with the public transport infrastructure suspended and thousands unable to travel.
8. Aberystwyth, West Wales
Many parts of the UK were affected by heavy downpours and localised flash flooding in June 2012. Another caravan park where the owners found themselves and all the accommodation almost 2 metres under water was one located at the seaside resort of Aberystwth. Large amounts of the town became cut off as they joined the other 39 areas of the UK to have an Amber rain and flood warning in place.
9. Clovelly, Devon
The scenic tourist town of Clovelly was swamped by flood waters on 11 October 2012. Following 5cm of rain falling in just an hour, the narrow streets became raging torrents as cobbles were ripped up by the fast-flowing waters. Few properties escaped water ingress and the dangerous speed of water travelling through the area meant that many had little time to prepare; using makeshift defences as a last minute resort before leaving their homes.
10. Somerset Levels, Somerset
The Somerset Levels are one of the most vulnerable areas of the UK for flash flooding. The winter of 2013/2014 saw record amounts of rain and the disappearance of thousands of acres of livestock land. Some properties were cut off for many weeks before residents could safely return to survey the damage.