The United Kingdom is home to many traditions with the least welcome being the yearly news reports of vast swathes of land being swamped by water from the sea, sky, or breaking over the banks of rivers, or even all three at once. Flooding can happen in the winter or the summer, spring or autumn and you can bet that every morning residents wake up and wish for sunny days.
The Somerset Levels and Moors
Much of these 160,000 acres of coastal area and wetlands have been drained by ditches since ancient times and so have always been known to be prone to flooding, but even so recent weather events have been remarkable. Between December 2013 and January 2014 a deluge of water from heavy rainfall affected 600 houses, the village of Thorney was abandoned, and the village of Muchelney was totally cut off from the rest of the country.
The county town of Worcestershire is at continuous risk of flooding thanks to having the longest river in the United Kingdom running right through its centre, and was struck badly in 2007 and 2012. In February 2014 the Severn broke records when its water in the Barbourne area was at 5.67 metres, the highest that they had ever reached since Environmental Agency records began.
When Cyclone Xaver rampaged over the North Sea on the 4th of December 2013 it caused a tidal surge that affected northern Europe and so a lot of northern England. Water rose to such unexpectedly high levels that it overtopped Boston’s flood defense walls, 300 homes were flooded, and the CCTV footage of the event was released by the local Borough Council. Along with Skegness, Boston is regarded as the place most in danger from flooding in the UK.
On the 13th of September 2012 a £45 million flood defense opened that stretched along 27 kilometres of the River Trent, from Sawley to Colwick. It was intended to protect Nottingham from the river should it overflow. Unfortunately what it couldn’t be expected to do was protect the town from flash floods due to torrential rain, as shown in the video below recorded in July the following year.
The River Thames undoubtedly offers a highly desirable series of housing locations, and also provides a significant risk from flooding and with that some impressively high insurance costs. Staines, Walton Bridge and Shepperton were badly affected by rogue water in 2014, as were Windsor, Maidenhead, Cookham, Marlow, Bourne End, the Berkshire villages of Colnbrook and Datchet, as well as a fair amount of Oxfordshire.
Coastal areas around Northern Ireland are not only naturally prone to suffering flood damage from tidal surges, but also from torrential rain. When 40% of the average rainfall for October fell on Belfast in just seven hours on the 16th October 2014, for example, raw sewage erupted from drains and locals had to once again quickly rely on sandbags to save their property from being soaked in foul, polluted, water.
In March 2015 eight inches of rain fell across the Scottish Highlands in just 48 hours. It might not sound too excessive, until you also take into account how melting snow helped contribute to record-breaking river levels that caused the Ness to break its banks. Low-lying homes in Inverness were flooded, but it should be remembered that the area is also prone to flash floods, like the one shown below from 2010.
West Coast of Wales
Wales’ most westerly point is at regular risk from flash flooding as well as tidal storms striking the sea and rivers. Aberaeron, Aberystwyth and Fishguard have been struck badly in recent years, and below you’ll see how sea and river levels combined to flood Lower Cardigan.
Devon and Cornwall Coast
The coastline of these counties suffered greatly during February 2014 and no more obviously than in Dawlish, Devon, where 20 people were evacuated after the sea wall collapsed and took with it the rail line. Without it, Cornwall and much of Devon was denied railway access. It wasn’t, however, the first time Dawlish had suffered at the hands of nature as the footage featured below, from 2012, demonstrates.
Although Norfolk itself features over 100,000 properties that are at risk from flooding the fact that Yarmouth is on the mouth of the river Yare means that it often gets special attention.
In December 2013 thousands of people were evacuated from their homes and the army was called in to help deal with severe flooding after one of the biggest storm surges since 1953 struck the coastal town. Thankfully there was plenty of time for people to make preparations.