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!
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