This is really! my last post on the Big Freeze – though every time I turn round I find another x number of posts I could write – that’s the British weather ...
Part 3: Fun stories, silly outcomes, housing stock and floods, various ..
I have a wonderful book “The Wrong Kind of Snow – The Complete Daily Companion to the British Weather” ... and only looked at it yesterday ...
Fifty years later has brought out plenty of articles and remembrances for me to draw on, while you have added further to the rich tapestry of notes from history ...
|2013's snow - it didn't last long .. but|
trains got stuck
The entry from the book above for 6th February (1963)... reads the phenomenal blizzard that begins today continues for 32 hours. It buries tracts of the west country, Wales and Ireland beneath 5 feet (1.5 metres) of snow ...
Interestingly the book comments on the new American site manager at Fylingdales Early Warning Station on the Yorkshire moors (see previous post) ... who had just arrived from Alaska ... he describes the conditions (80 mph (130 kph) winds and snow thick enough to bury a double-decker bus in an hour) as worse than anything he’s experienced: says something?!
|Rookery painted by Alexei|
Krondayevich Savrasov (1871)
The book mentions a story about a woman in Leicestershire carrying bread rolls – she is attacked and knocked down by ravenous pigeons. Army engineers dynamite sea ice to get ships of the east coast ports ...
Another new book review, which sounds interesting, called “Britain Begins” by Barry Cunliffe reminds us that our distant ancestors were made of stern stuff....
Sometime after the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago, a few hunter-gatherers strayed onto the tundra that was to become Britain and Ireland. But ahead lay upheavals that “dwarf modern fears of climate change”.
|Doggerland before the|
waters broke through
creating the Channel
Melting ice separated Britain from Ireland, and drowned Doggerland, where hunters had roamed in what is now the North Sea; thick layers of sand along the Scottish coast suggest “an ominously large” tsunami around this time.
The English Channel was formed at this time by the wall of melt water pushing its way through to the Atlantic Ocean.
More precisely dateable by tree rings, to 3,000 years ago, was a 20-year winter caused by volcanic ash. So who were these hardy peoples – well that’s for another day!!
|Illustrated London News|
So climate change is ongoing and always has been ... every time we have a flood rivers change direction, earth and trees are moved on ... coastlines change with the ongoing seas pounding our lands ... life goes on ...
The thaw set in on 6th March 1963, but apparently it wasn’t as bad as the flood had been when the big freeze of 1947 thawed, the flood plains and rivers coped – yes there was flooding as I’ve described in my earlier posts, but the weather remained dry – the extra rainfall of 1947 was not added to the soaked countryside.
|Housing as today ...|
We still have major floods ... these, pre the War, were dissipated by the natural flood plains ... in the last 70 years we have been building on these flood plains to fulfil the country’s need for housing ...
.... but do we, the country, need the cost of repairing the flood damage, or providing flood defences all over the place ... that law of unintended consequences springs to mind ...
|Victorian Housing in Manchester|
The Victorians knew what to do. The built homes with cellars, with steps up to the front doors ... but now we build boxes with front doors at pavement level where the merest trickle of water across an area of concrete or tarmac cascades in and around these new abodes.
The Victorians had their challenges too – in some of the major floods the cellars had been occupied by the poor, so there was loss of life – but theoretically we know better now ...
... but do we – we’re still building fast and furiously on flood plains and messing around with things we can’t really control – ie river systems, protecting coastlines ...
|Southern coastline with chalk cliff falls|
Do we have ... the wrong type of snow – wrong type of rain ... ?!?
Transport experts assert that Britain really does suffer from the wrong type of snow. In Scandinavia and Siberia it's so cold that snow is like sand and can be blown out of the way. In Britain it tends to melt and refreeze.
|Swollen river in Spring|
They’re now referring to the wrong type of rain from which many of our recent floods occur ... it rains, but gathers and delivers a deluge ... rather than spreading it evenly across the country ...
Some stories from the papers of tales gone by:
The Big Freeze:
|Expect this was the kind|
of shovel the poor chap
would have used
SIR – The coal merchant’s telephone was always engaged. Word went round the village that those who called at the local sidings the next morning would be able to buy as much solid fuel as they could carry away. I took the car, queued for over an hour in a biting wind and managed to get about a hundredweight into the boot.
When I arrived home, my wife made me a hot drink, and I was just beginning to feel a bit more human when the coal lorry drew up. On the back was the 15cwt of anthracite ordered six weeks earlier. The joke that morning was definitely on me.
Or – this one on the early flooding in late January 1963 before it froze once again in February ...
|Frozen pond ... fine for the geese,|
but not for us humans!
SIR – I remember as a girl sitting on our garden wall looking into the flooded lane and wondering if my wellies were up to the job, when my brother and a neighbour appeared in a punt and invited me aboard.
Later when the water froze we skated in the garden. My mother claimed a snowball brought inside lasted six weeks on the stairs. Well, housekeeping was not her skill.
Sometimes we have to marvel (or be totally impolite more likely) at the stupidity of the human:
|Early Spring carpet of snowdrops|
In 2009 police in Co Durham and Lewes, Sussex tracked down burglars by following their footprints in the snow ...
... in 2010 police in Leicester discovered a cannabis factory because it was the only house in the area without any snow on its roof, thanks to the heat used in plant cultivation.
|The brewery moved after the|
The natural floods are one thing ... but the seriously unfortunate and unlikely floods I leave you to wonder at ...
The Great Boston Molasses Flood, USA – the tragedy occurred on 15 January 1919 when a large molasses storage tank burst, and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 kph) killing 21 and injuring 150.
|Manor House of Toten Hall c 1813|
now the area of Tottenham Court Road
The London Beer Flood on 17 October 1814 at the Meux and Company Brewery on Tottenham Court Road, when a huge vat containing over 135, 000 imperial gallons (610,000 litres) of beer ruptured, causing other vats to succumb in a domino effect. As a result, more than 323,000 imperial gallons, (1,470,000 litres) of beer burst out and gushed into the streets.
The wave of beer destroyed two homes and crumbled the wall of the Tavistock Arms Pub ... the poor houses and tenements of St Giles Rookery, where families lived in basement rooms that quickly filled with beer – 8 people died from the incident ...
|William Hogarth's etching 1851:|
Beer Street and Gin Lane
I’d never realised that ‘a rookery’ was a colloquial term coined in the 18th and 19th centuries to a city slum ...
Just to round off the last of these weather posts ... our weather will always be a talking point – this tiny island sits on the cusp of systems ... Siberia to the east, Arctic to the north, Atlantic to our west and on occasion European heat or freeze from our south ...
|The gentleness of Spring is a-coming|
The jet streams weave their necklaces around us and occasionally bring us gales in January, frosts in May, snow in April, hail and thunderstorms in July and August, Indian Summers in October, fog in November and December ...
All this weather has exhausted me ... and the week ahead portends wintry blasts ... the only thing that doesn’t change too quickly is the time – our days are getting lighter and that brightens the mind ... roll on Spring!
Thanks for bearing with me and this post is the last on weather for a while!
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