Floods come in all shapes and sizes and from all directions ... the weather too – hot, cold, wet, dry ... nothing really changes ... the first three months of last year were so dry – if it had rained even a little early in 2012 – then the year would have taken the ‘wettest year on record award’!
|St Mary's Church, Whitby|
But it didn’t ... and we had 1,291.2 mm (50.8 inches) of rain – only surpassed by the Millennium year when 1,337.3 mm (52.6 inches) fell.
Going back 100 years – the summer months of 1912 were the wettest in the meteoroligcal annals ... while on August 25th 2012 in Norwich, Norfolk 20cm (7.9 inches) of rain fell – a downpour unmatched before or since.
|Windsor, Thames |
- flood engraving 1865
102 years ago – 1910 – there had been high rainfall in the Seine’s catchment area ... and Paris flooded via the overflowing sewers and subway tunnels, seeping into basements through saturated soil and drains.
The Seine in Paris did not burst its banks, but to the east and west of the capital the hinterland was directly flooded. Parisians had to evacuate their homes and business, making their way around the city on makeshift footbridges for the week of the major flooding ...
|Walking the plank in Paris 1910|
Storm surges in the North Sea have been known and experienced across Europe for years ... recently we had the North Sea Flood of 1953 which caused over 2,000 deaths in the Dutch province of Zeeland and about 50 here in the UK ...
... a storm surge generated by low pressure in the Atlantic sometimes tracks eastwards past the north of Scotland and may then be driven into the shallow waters of the North Sea. If the surge coincides with a Spring tide, dangerously high water levels can occur.
|Hamburg in 1160|
Hamburg at the ‘end’ of the Elbe River – 68 miles from the North Sea at the west of Denmark – experienced, in 1962, a storm surge that spread across the North Sea affecting southeast England, Germany and southern Denmark – 318 of the 330 deaths occurred in Hamburg.
The 1953 North Sea Flood reminded the British of the previous Thames flood in London in 1928 when 14 people died ... and the issue of flood control gained prominence.
|c/o BBC Science 2007: level 1 = lowest section of wall as|
dictated by 1879 Flood Act; level 2 = update to Flood Act
before end of 1800s raised the wall; level 3 = 1928 flood
and subsequent 1930 Flood Act lifted defences again;
level 4 = interim addition after 1953 flood, while Thames
Barrier was built
Britain over the millennia has been tilting slowly – up in the north and west; down in the south and east – by 20 cm (8inches) per 100 years – caused by post-glacial rebound – who knew? Well I did .. but hadn’t realised the country was rebounding!!
The Dutch opened their flood barriers (Delta works) in 1986, while the British Thames Barrier was opened in May 1984.
|The Dutch barrier|
About one third of the Barrier’s closures have been to alleviate fluvial flooding in the city ... where the capacity of watercourses is exceeded as a result of rainfall, or snow and ice melts (as happened in the Thames flood plain in 1963 – the pictures that kept me ‘amused’) ...
|The Thames Barrier|
The Royal Society of British Architects website states that ...
· 1.5% of the country is at direct flooding risk from the sea;
· About 7 % of the country is likely to flood at least once every 100 years from rivers
· 1.7m homes and 130,000 commercial properties are at risk from river or coastal flooding ..
· Many more properties are at risk from flash floods
|A simple diagram showing|
how the flood gates work
see Wiki : Thames Barrier
Back to the Thames Barrier – closures ...
Ø In the 1980s – there were 4
Ø In the 1990s – 35
Ø 75 closures in the first decade of the 21st century
Ø 4 at the end of 2012/2013 (there’s been a lot of rain and it was a soggy Christmas!)
Each year the Environment Agency test the barrier ... and in 2012 it was scheduled to coincide with Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant ...
... this gave the Agency “a unique opportunity to test its design for a longer period than we would normally be able to”, while the stable tidal conditions that resulted on the Thames in central London really helped all those many vessels taking part ... considering the weather conditions on the day of the Pageant – that was lucky.
|Newlyn looking east across to|
When my mother became manager/cook of a new retirement complex in Penzance there was a small stream that ran along one boundary ... the sea must be about 100 yards away (100m) – there was a very localised deluge ... the tiny bourne rose against the incoming tide – the garden and some of the ground floor flooded.
Then when my mother had bought her hotel in Newlyn, converted it into a care home, and was wanting to expand on the tiny granite ‘level’ rock-face that the hotel/care home was originally built on ...
|Nuts come in many sizes - as this one|
shows on Sydney Harbour Bridge
... she was able to do it (eventually ... after much determination), but had to shore the rock-face up ... by pinning it with nuts and bolts ... ie so it wouldn’t slip down onto the houses below.
I would have said they were bigger than these used on the Sydney Harbour Bridge (to which we also have a family connection) ... and there must be at least 12 driven into the rocks, to stabilise the cliff, on which Newlyn village and the care home are built.
The fishermen in Newlyn (about one mile west of Penzance) were hugely pleased ... as they had a landmark to hone in on as they returned back to port ... yet the care home blended into the landscape perfectly. My mother was amazing at what she achieved through her life.
|View of 199 steps leading from Whitby town to|
St Mary's Church and the Abbey above
However the nuts and bolts remembrance came from the fact that so many cliff-built homes have recently been undermined by the rain, bringing some crashing down onto the houses below ... particularly in areas where the geology is different – sandstone and boulder clay ... both renowned to be unstable.
The one I thought you’d all find interesting is the landslip that recently occurred at Whitby ...
Bram Stoker used the 12th century St Mary’s Church and churchyard, next to the ruins of Whitby Abbey ... as the setting for part of his novel Dracula ... and apparently found the name Dracula at the old public library.
|St Mary's Church and graveyard|
The heavy rains triggered a landslide of human bones .... the Vancouver Sun article states:
“The seaside English town that inspired blood-letting exploits of Count Dracula is now dealing with its own ghoulish horror as heavy rains swept away part of an ancient graveyard ...”
So – the classic English word – I thought I’d really covered the English weather ... but I’ve found some other bits and pieces of information and the BBC last night decided to put out 45 minutes of archived footage on the winter of 1963.
Historically for me ... this was interesting ... so I will do yet another winter weather post shortly ... and I promise come the end of the week we’ll sit quietly together celebrating Burns Night with a whisky and some haggis!!
Here are some sites that you, your children or grandchildren might find interesting:
Vancouver Sun article re Dracula ... why I had to find the information I wanted via Vancouver I'll never know ... !
British Geological Survey site - on the Whitby landslide
St Mary's Church - Sacred Destinations website
Whitby Heritage - via Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre - has some interesting information on landslides in the area going back to the 1700s
British Meteorological Site - Education site ... severe winters
PS ... I should have said it's snowing here - lightly ... but sufficient to layer us with a winter wonderland view ... it's due to move to the north - but this lot has come in from France!
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
. . . and yet, knowing all this, town and country planners still allow new building on flood plains . . . you couldn't make it up!
Nature probably has many more surprises in store for us. I heard talk that the fault that splits England from side to side will slide again, raising England and dropping the Scotland end.
Whitby is close to is and we visit there regularly. I could relate to a lot you have written and have learnt a lot from this post especially about how Britain is tilting.
I'm with jabblog when it comes to planners.
Snowy and rainy stuff! Our weather has some serious side effects sometimes, doesn't it?
The west country has certainly suffered these past few months with floods.You wrote a very informative post which made me stop and count my blessings that Bournemouth cold though it may be has been lucky weather wise.
Take care Hilary,
We tend to think of extreme or unpredictable weather as something new, possibly even man made, but it's always given us surprises, hasn't it?
I agree with Patsy. It's such a shame that the media doesn't compare modern storms and weather with documented historical events and conditions. We even had one major news anchor comment during a winter storm a couple of years ago, "It's never been like this before." laying the blame squarely on global warming. Yet, the same area had experienced a very similar winter just a few years before he was born.
If we don't remember weather conditions like we're getting now, it must be something new.
I like what Mike says, and agree.
But my goodness, that's a LOT of rain falling everywhere, and more and more bridge closings -- maybe because safety standards have increased.
LOVE the old Paris pic of the make-shift foot-bridges, holy cow they look pretty precarious.
enjoy your light dusting, Hils!!
That's interesting about the Barriers. I didn't know you had them. And a landslide of human bones would be a strange sight.
Fascinating as always, Hilary. The pictures and stories...the Dracula castle, all so cool. How much higher can that wall be made? I assume it compares to a levee in some respects, right? Thanks for the history lesson!
As lovely as cliff side houses can be, I've often wondered about their stability over time. This blog was quite informative on that. Scary business bolting a house to rock. And is the UK really tipping? Let's have that whiskey now then. (I may pass on the haggis)
Thanks for another informative, fascinating post, Hilary! I've given you a Sunshine Award on my children's blog. Your posts never fail to inspire me!
I'm very impressed with how hard your mum worked to eventually start her own business, and literally didn't let any barriers stand in her way!
It's also interesting to learn where the inspiration for Dracula came from. Thanks Hilary!
Fascinating stuff. Thanks for sharing! I love history and learning all these facts.
It's 70 degrees and sunny here. The dogs love this weather. I leave the back door open and they run in and out. Occasionally a lizard runs in too and then I run.
This is so interesting! That's wonderful that your mother was so enterprising.
This is great Hilary. You know we Aussies are no strangers to flooding. Just about like the annual Egyptian deluge, except when we're in drought.
We were fascinated by the Thames Barriers when we visited London and stayed at Blackheath a couple of years ago. They look strange sitting out there in the water--you don't really picture London as a water city, but it certainly is.
So Britain is slipping, eh? Interesting. So many countries are slowly slipping back into the sea--Mauritius, Bangladesh etc and we're told the coastline of Australia is endangered. Well, that's a problem that's worldwide now, unless you're land locked.
I know Climate Change is blamed for so much, but ever since the world began, the climate has been changing.
Loved all this history. And thanks for the further reading...
Awww Hilary! I do hope your mum's nuts and bolts are weathering the storm and shoring up the incline! What an amazing woman!
I'll bring the whisky next week! Take care
I was living there in '53 I was 15) but I don't remember any of that. I remember the 62/3 ice because it impinged on me personally I suppose.
They built the Thames barriers after we emigrated. Know nothing about them. I do remember a really bad mud slide in Devon.
What the heck has Dracula to do with England, all Transylvania surely?
The first time I went to London, I didn't bring an umbrella. I did buy one quickly.
A shower of bones. That would be eerie.
Your Mother was a self-made woman in times that were not so easy for a woman. That must make you very proud.
Isn't it amazing? Nature? I have a blog friend whose home in England keeps getting flooded and flooded. I wonder why they do that?
Mother Nature is a powerful force! I teach my students that nature has always wreaked havoc on the face of the Earth. But Mankind likes stuff to remain where it is ...
With such a high risk for flooding in areas beside the sea, it's a wonder so many people all over the world choose to build right next to it.
As for Burns week, bring it on! I'll recite his poetry with you, and even raise a glass of whiskey, but you can keep the haggis. YUK
Wow! Now that's an interesting post!
I saw a TV show on the Dutch Barrier not too long ago. One of the most fascinating shows I've seen in a long time. I'm going to YouTube and hops I can catch it there. Fascinating!
Your mom's hands-on approach and effort is inspiring. I could do without the bone landslide though. Yikes!
@ Janice - yes they are building in ridiculous places aren't they - that's part of my next post ..
@ Francene - that's interesting I hadn't heard that ... I always thought Scotland might split .. across the Highland Boundary Fault line .. but not England ...
@ Bob - Whitby must be so interesting .. reading up about the town really opened my eyes to one or two aspects of literature I hadn't realised.
Tilting Britain and sea level rises .. and flood plain building - all good subjects to know about ..
@ Anne - yes the weather is our constant talking point ...
@ Yvonne - the west country has suffered a great deal in these recent years and in 1962/3 ... and I too count my blessings being on the south coast ..
@ Patsy - the weather is a law unto itself ... it's what we do to the earth below that mucks us up (sometimes) ...
@ Mike - you're so right .. and now information is more accessible we are realising that records perhaps weren't so accurate ... and in fact history tells us of storms, floods throughout time ...
Your comment re the media - well they have to be succinct and don't think to look back which then lengthen their article .. hence my post length sometimes!
Weather is definitely not new ...
@ Jannie - yes, Mike does make some good points ... and we have had acres of rain in the past few years ... and it's partly due to safety standards, but more because of us engineering of our countryside - definitely doesn't help with flooding ...
That Paris picture totally amused me when I found it .. and doesn't it look precarious - so right ..
Our snowy dusting is still here .. it's a bit sludgy this morning!
@ Alex - the barriers are amazing structures .. I saw the tv programme on the Dutch floods last night - suddenly two tv programmes were put on this weekend ..
Landslide of human bones ...very unfortunate ... fortunately probably very old ones but even so ...
@ Chuck - I hadn't realised Dracula came from Whitby - so that was interesting to read about ...
The embankments as they are described along the Thames in London ... I think they're hoping it won't need to go higher now the Barrier is up and working .. though with rising sea levels and more severe storms .. the Barrier's Days may be numbered ... and flooding in London may happen again ..
@ Susan - well these past few rainy years have really destabilised some cliffs ...
Mum's bolts were to shore up the rock-face not the building per se ... but really rather unnecessary on a granite cliff - you should see the houses built up the narrow lanes leading up the steep hill!
I'll enjoy some of the haggis and your ice and water ... and leave you the whisky .. we can both enjoy the fire! A cosy drink and a chat would be nice ..
Yes - the UK is tipping (or rebounding) and the sea levels are rising ...
Thanks so much everyone so far - better go to comment 2 for the rest of my replies .. cheers - Hilary
What a fascinating post, Hilary! I was riveted by the stories of the Seine and I never knew there'd been a storm surge that affected Hamburg too! Of course, living in NL as I do, I know the 1953 stories and how the flood barriers came to be. They are pretty impressive, I must say. I think the last time they had to be closed for a sea surge was around five years ago. We didn't know a thing about it. My daughter in SA heard it on the news and told me :-) This is a great and interesting article. Your mother sounds astonishing! Can't wait to read more!
@ Connie .. thank you so much - appreciate the Sunshine Award ..
@ Julie - my mother was a very hard worker - always had a garden going, kept her business going and put her all into things - as you say .. no barriers. That Dracula snippet is interesting isn't it ..
@ Christine - appreciate your thoughts ..
@ Janie - I'd love to be where you are - it's cold - but not as cold as 62/63 ...
Dogs running in and out are fun .. the lizard wouldn't worry me - the snakes in Brisbane, Oz would .. they've invaded the place apparently ..
@ Lynn - delighted you're interested in the post .. and enterprising is a word I'd have used for my Mama ..
@ Denise .. I'm always interested in your floods too - they're devastating .. and now you're in drought .. with snakes?
So right about climate change - the weather's always worked its wondrous ways with the land .. I know the low lying areas of the world are subject to sea-level rise ... as Bangladesh .. but hadn't realised about Mauritius.
Thanks for the note re the further reading .. the sites were worth mentioning ..
@ Old Kitty - sadly we don't own the Care Home any more .. but the bolts and the granite will be there for many a century I suspect!!
She was amazing .. and I'll join you for a cosy chat - might forego the whisky though .. not my favourite ..
@ Jo - the storm surge was bad in Kent - and like you the 62/63 winter is well remembered ... though I was younger ...
The mud slides over the years too have been bad ...
The name Dracula was found in Whitby by Bram Stoker who wrote scenes in the book based on his time in Whitby ...
@ Manzanita - thankfully I have very short hair and avoid the pain of an umbrella ... but then I don't have hair-dos etc!! Most people need them ... the shower of bones is a great description isn't it ..
My mother did achieve a great deal and I am very proud of her ...
@ Sandy - I can't imagine owning a house in a flood-prone area .. there's nothing they can do .. I really feel for those that have been flooded more than once ..
@ Dianne - so right ... yet mankind messes with the environment and the law of unintended consequences sets in ...!! so stuff doesn't remain where it is ...
@ Susan - it stemmed from being accessible by water ... and very early routes used waterways or high points to travel around ... it's interesting how and where the population over time settled ..
Burns Week is Friday I think ... so we'll get the whisky out - I'll give that a miss ... a little haggis is ok ... I may well be the only one eating it ... my whisky bottle may run out quite quickly - rather a lot of you requiring whisky and not haggis!!
@ Stephen - delighted you enjoyed the post .. and yes I think I might have seen the same clip on tv (as a repeat) last night ... it was fascinating - especially as I'd just written this post and I'd never seen that 'Coast' before ...
@ Slamdunk - Mum never let the world pass her by - she was always involved and active ... but the bone slide is a bit much, I agree .. interesting to hear about though ....
@ Val - it's great that you're picking up this post while living in the Netherlands ... I saw a tv programme (Coast) last night (a repeat I think) about the Dutch Barriers and the impact the storm of 1953 had on your coastline ..
My mother was an amazing lady - she was always interested in life and doing things for others ..
Thanks everyone - so pleased you're not too bored with these winter postings ... I've a lot more to ramble on about in the next post - but if it interests me, then it seems it'll interest you ...
Lovely to have your remembrances, thoughts and ideas on all sorts of aspects ... cheers Hilary
Very interesting post about floods through the ages. I enjoyed reading it and viewing the pictures!
I didn't know that England was tilting like that. I also didn't know that the country (and many others) were in such danger of flooding and flash floods. I was recently in a flash flood here in Mexico and it was frightening.
Amazing history lesson. I never thought of heavy flooding in England, although we get it here. Won't scare you with how much rain we can get from a single hurricane.
We always worry about landslides here in BC. We have tons of rain,
My cousin in England send us photos of snow. He was all excited.
I often wonder about Holland and floods. It's below sea level.
Thank you for your amazing postings, Hilary.
As you know my links to Whitby is in my blood and to see my beloved St Mary's Church almost at the cliff edge is so sad. I have a letter from my great aunt telling a family story of her Great Uncle locking up his Jet workshop on Henrietta street one night and the next morning it was gone.
The bones which are wash out of the graveyard are reburied by the church. St Mary's Graveyard was closed to buries in 1850's so the bones are not from new graves.
I remember the 62 flood in Germany, it was dreadful.
We make a fuss when our little river floods for a few days; it’s not much fun for the people whose houses are affected.
I can't imagine having to live through a flood of that magnitude. Scary how quickly Mother Nature can completely change the landscape, not to mention the lives of so many. I'll never understand why people still choose to build in potential flood zones. Anyway, thank you for the links, and for sharing this amazing information about the weather, I especially enjoyed the bit about your mother. She sounds like a woman who made things happen. (:
Wow, you're tilting?!
It's amazing what your mother accomplished. I've never been to Penzance but it looks beautiful.
You always have so much information. You boggle my mind with your research skills!
Vancouver's weather is very similar to London's. Except Vancouver seldom sees snow and I can only remember one Christmas where we had a white Christmas Eve and green Christmas dad.
"A landslide of human bones..." fascinating and yucky.
I can't find my glasses. I used to be able to type without them. Haha. Of course I meant day not dad!
i love coming to your blog, it's like a mini history lesson with pics, just the way i like it!
@ Sherry - lots of information in these recent blogs - the pictures do help don't they ..
@ Clarissa - I think many countries are probably still adjusting to the ice age .. we just don't think about it .. but since we can measure so many more things in greater detail and through computers can model our previous world, and predict to a point our future - we're finding more out.
Being caught in a flash flood must have been very frightening ... glad you're safe ..
@ Diane - I know I daren't mention America, or other parts of the world as there are many much worse floods, drought, fire, rain etc elsewhere ...
But I've found checking out our history very interesting ...
@ A Lady's Life - being on the coast is usually rainier than elsewhere isn't it ... I'm so glad your cousin is still enjoying 'our' snow here ... and Holland has protected itself to a main degree with very long barriers - creating a lagoon one side with the North Sea the other ..
@ Paula - thanks for commenting I knew you'd have an interesting thought.
That information about your great aunt and then her great uncle must take us back to the 1850s or so ..
I see from the Scarborough link that Whitby suffered a landslide in 1785, while the one you must be talking about was in December 1870.
While Jet - you've reminded us about the Mourning Jewellery made from Jet found around Whitby - this was really interesting.
@ Friko - I imagine the Hamburg flood was dreadful in its results - the basements and tenements flooded out.
I had some friends flooded out in the 2000 floods in Newport Pagnell ... it took ages for their house to be habitable once again ...
@ Elise - even a small flash flood can be terrifying and we've had some really shocking ones this past year ... places for building are in short supply ... so the consequences are faced ..
My mother certainly never let go - if it was possible it became so!
@ Laura - I know it seems strange to think down here we're slowly sinking! Cornwall is lovely .. we've been lucky to have had connections with that part of the world throughout our lives ..
My research is just 'picking things up that relate to something I want to write about' and then adding them into a post - thankfully what interests me interests you ...
@ Joylene - you had snow in the Winter Olympics yaer didn't you?! ... I don't remember many white Christmases ... but after Christmas it quite often snowed ..
Landslide of human bones - as Paula says above they are all carefully reburied ...
Glasses I can still just about manage - but I do look for them ...
@ Tammy - really appreciate your comment ... my aim is to interest everyone ..
Thank you so much and I'm so pleased to see you're still interested in these winter weather posts!! Cheers - Hilary
What a fascinating post, Hilary. It's no wonder we never tire of talking about the weather. I especially love the picture of the bolt and I hope your mum's are withstanding the weather. What a remarkable enterprising lady she was!
The bones landslide is the stuff of nightmares.
I don't believe in this "Clima changing" stuff, before it was called Global warming ! Since it's freezing they changed the name ! It has always been like that, only we didn't know because there was no TV and no weather forecasts ! you didn't even know what weather it was in the next village !
I am not sure if my comment got through so at the risk of repeating myself... Fascinating facts and figures Hilary and where do you get it all from? I shall be back to read your account of 1963 which I remember well having been 6 at the time, 7 in the November. of course, summers were all hot and winters were all cold in my childhood memories...:-)
@ Shirley - don't tire of talking about the weather do we ... we have rain right now ... but I'm sure it'll be slush/snow further inland.
The Care Home (no longer owned by the family) will stand the test of time I suspect .. but she was extremely enterprising ..
... that bone landslide has everyone thinking ...
@ Gattina - I tend to agree with you .. the effects of our actions might be visible in the flora and fauna of the world - but the climate will continue to do its own thing ...
... and as you say we weren't constantly bombarded with information as now ... and weather forecasting was guess work to a point.
@ Deborah - no your other comment didn't get through .. so I'm glad you came back.
I read one newspaper a week, and one magazine summarising the news a week, and odd bits of the tv and radio ... then some via the links I find ... and some of these snippets were from the local newspapers ...
If I see something that interests me .. I often find other linked snippets come along ... then it's combining it all into something coherent ...
Thanks so much for visiting ... cheers Hilary
I always learn so much when I visit your blog. Didn't know that about Bram Stoker and St. Mary's Church!
I just don't how you do it. Not only another fascinating and informative posting, but are you ready for this, I used to deliver newspapers for the Vancouver Sun!
And this week, they are predicting temperatures here of up to minus 16 centigrade. Stay well wrapped up and now I must go and have a cup of Belgian hot chocolate and I have no marshmallows left.
you amaze me collecting all this knowledge!
and i thought penzance was made up for the musical! love it!
Those stats are crazy! And wow-- you put so much research into this! I'm impressed.
@ Nutschell ... I learn so much writing the blog! as Bram Stoker and his novel Dracula!!
@ Gary ... how extraordinary that you used to work for the Vancouver Sun ... that's what came up when I was trying to find a reference to the landslide - so that's what I'd used.
It's warmer here and the snow all melted ... but the west country and Wales seem to be in the thick of it still ... I think I might be ok down here ..
Hot chocolate sounds good - I've had a couple of those recently .. though without the marshmallows - that are good aren't they.
@ Tara - many thanks .. Penzance is where my mother lived for 50 years ... and that part of Cornwall is our 2nd home ...
@ Peggy - lovely to see you here .. I just enjoy writing posts .. so thank you ...
Cheers everyone ... more research to do - better get to it .. Hilary
I hadn't known that about Dracula!
My latest story is set in Cornwall! I love reading anything and everything I can about the place - last time I visited was nearly 15 years ago :-(
I remember everyone saying when we visited the UK last April that it was the wettest in 100 years. Scary how quickly floods can happen.
Hi Deniz .. nor had I realised was some of the Dracula story started in Whitby, or that's where Bram Stoker found the name "Dracula" ...
But - Cornwall is 'my county' .. I spent a great many holidays down there and my mother eventually moved back -
When you get over again ... perhaps we can meet up down there .. and last year was terrible for the rain! Flash floods do arise much more quickly than many realise ..
Thanks for coming by - cheers for now - Hilary
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