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Prepare for severe autumn and winter floods



The wet summer leading to saturated ground, high rivers and groundwater mean we are likely to suffer severe floods throughout the autumn and winter. Today’s warning by the Met Office and Environment Agency demonstrates the harsh reality of our changing climate.

The news comes at a time when the Government plans cuts to proposed flood defences. In July, the Guardian highlighted that work on 294 flood fence schemes had been left unbuilt increasing the risk and costs as we approach the wetter autumn and winter seasons.

High spring tides in the middle of November and between 12 to 18 December will be a particular challenge for coastal areas.

Unusual combinations of extreme weather conditions with high sea levels contributed to Hurricane Sandy’s devastating impact to New York and New Jersey and they are not without precedent in the UK, the Great Flood of 1968 being one such examples. Looking at significant floods on the Thames, they start to occur with increasing frequency in 1928, 1947, 1968, 1993, 1998, 200, 2003 and 2006.

The specific warnings are:

  • There is an increased likelihood of flooding from rivers in November and December, especially in the South West of England. Northern and Western parts of England and Wales also have an increased risk after recent heavy rainfall.
  • Groundwater levels are also unseasonably high following this summer’s unprecedented rainfall. There is increased risk of flooding from ground water in the south and east of England with Devon, Dorset and Hampshire particularly at risk.
  • Flooding from surface water – where the amount of rainfall overwhelms the drainage network – is more likely as the ground is already saturated.
  • The risk of coastal flooding also increases at this time of year, especially during periods of high spring tides from 12-18 November and 12-18 December.

Paul Mustow, head of Flood Incident Management at the Environment Agency, said, “This year our flood defences have protected over 119,000 properties, but we cannot prevent flooding entirely.

“With one in six homes at risk of flooding, the most important step people can take in protecting themselves from the worst impacts is to find out if they are at risk, and sign up to the Environment Agency’s free flood warnings service.

“As winter approaches we’d encourage everyone to take this one step to help protect themselves from what is recognised as the country’s number one natural hazard.”

If you want to see whether your property or business is at risk of flooding you can look at the interactive maps (you can enter your postcode in the right hand column) at the Environment Agency.

There is more information at the National Flood Forum and Met Offices, get ready for winter site.

Further reading:

Flood defences in England improved by local knowledge

UK faces a future of increased flooding

Fears over maintenance of flood defences

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.


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