Community Flood Group – December 2019

Rainfall
What a difference a year makes is clearly shown in local plots of monthly rainfall and accumulated rainfall. A single flood in March/April 2018 has been superceded by four in 2019, all occurring within one month period,namely 15.10.19, 27.10.19, 10.11.19 and 14/15.11.19. The latter saw extensive coverage of the floodplain and recorded the highest gauge reading of 71.9m.

FloodDecember2019

Prolonged and heavy rainfall has seen extensive flooding across the UK with Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the East Midlands witnessing flooding of 100’s of homes. Comments from communities effected again highlighted serious problems with the management of flooding in general, namely

(a) E/A warnings too late, clearly a failure of AVM.
(b) delays in activating emergency services.
(c) new flood defences in upstream areas enhancing downstream flooding,creating
sacrificial communities.
(d) E/A misleading residents with claims of “it won’t happen again in your lifetime”.
(e) residents unable to insure properties even though Flood-Re promised affordable cover by adding a levy to everybodies insurance policies.

In this era of high technology it remains incomprehensible why advanced warnings cannot be given well in advance as there is an extensive network of real time rainfall and river level gauges. In addition satellite and ground radar provide forecasters with the ability to make 10 day forecasts and provide updates every 5 minutes.

All of this reminds me of the Bye investigations following the Northampton flooding of 1998 :-

(1) improvements in forecasting and warning systems with the use of local media and sirens to alert communities. Flood wardens with their local knowledge must form a vital link.
(2) improved communication between E/A and emergency services.
(3) in the light of the ever present risk of flooding the E/A recognised the imprudence of inappropriate development in flood risk areas and agreed to defend rigorously their advice to LPA’s to prevent such developments adding to the problems of flooding. It was agreed that the impact of climate change should be factored into any flood defences.

Currently it is forecast that over 10,000 new homes are to be built on the flood plains largely with E/A approval, contrary to their own principles in “Living on Edge”.

Building bigger flood defences is not the answer and more cost effective upstream storage and bypass diverts should be used to ensure the rivers natural capacity is never exceeded.

Clearly lessons have not been learnt, not helped by reductions in staffing levels within the E/A and emergency services.

J.Arnold

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