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70 flood warning were issued across England in October and November 2019 with large parts of the country submerged under water. Places hit the hardest included areas of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. Around 22,000 properties were under protection by flood defences, including nearly 7,000 properties alone in Yorkshire.
Record rainfall recorded
Some areas endured their “wettest ever autumns”, with the Met Office Tweeting that its Sheffield weather station had already recorded 427.6mm of rain in November 2019 (with 15 days of the month still to go). The previous record was set in 2000 with 425.2mm of rain falling between September 1 and November 30 that year.
However, as we have seen in 2019, and in previous years, the UK frequently sees deluges which deliver rapidly rising water levels in some areas, in very short timescales. Back in 2015 Storm Desmond saw a deluge of 34 cm of rain into the Cumbria area within a single 24 hour period – a rainfall record. And it’s been third time unlucky for Nottinghamshire’s flood-plagued towns.
These episodes of extreme wet weather can cause surface water flooding and localised drainage flooding, as well as presenting issues such as rivers bursting their banks, like the Severn and Avon in recent weeks, which have left properties waterlogged in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. Residents in the Midlands and Yorkshire who have also been hit by heavy rain are still battling to clear their homes of floodwater and the debris it leaves behind.
But although some of these areas may be notorious for flooding, they are not the only vulnerable spots in the UK. In fact, according to the Environment Agency, approximately 5.9 million properties across Wales and England – that’s one in six homes – are at risk of flooding.
So where are these areas, and why are they at risk?
Coastal erosion offers a specific risk to homes. Tidal flooding, particularly in a century that’s already seeing rising sea levels, can result in the gradual destruction of sea defences and the loss of permanent homes to the sea.
Areas of the UK particularly vulnerable to this type of flooding include:
- East coast areas, particularly Peterborough, Hull and Great Yarmouth
- Kent and Sussex coastal areas. Some areas have been protected through “managed realignment”, which means that some areas of land are surrendered back to the sea, in order to reduce the risk of flooding in alternative areas, a strategy used in Medmerry in West Sussex.
Many of the UK’s oldest, and even more recent settlements were built on riversides. Unfortunately, these locations are doubly at risk when the weather turns wet and the seasons stormy: tidal surges coming upriver from the sea, as well as rivers bursting their banks from significant rainfall over a short, sudden period of time.
Areas of the UK at particular risk include, but are by no means limited to:
- Somerset – with Glastonbury at risk of flooding from rivers, with floods at the music festival being notable and regularly reported on for example. Bridgewater and Highbridge, ancient names giving clues to environmental factors which regularly affect them.
- Kent: New Romney, Gillingham, and Rochester.
- Essex: Burnham-on-Crouch.
- Norfolk: Great Yarmouth.
- Cambridgeshire: Peterborough and Holbeach.
- Lincolnshire: Woodhall Spa, Boston, Skegness, Scunthorpe, Sandtoft.
- Yorkshire: Knottingley and Hull.
Whilst our floodplains are often beautiful, they are extremely vulnerable to flooding from heavy rainfall causing rivers to flow fast downstream and bursting banks. The prevalence of agriculture in floodplains has also had an effect on risk, through the removal of natural flood protection, such as hedgerows. Cumbria is an area known for considerable risk (Guardian).
Surface water flooding is caused when flooding through downpours or other flood damage to drains (such as rivers bursting their banks and flooding drainage systems) affects drainage infrastructure. These events are often known as “flash flooding” and often affect urban areas, due to the high demand on drainage systems.
Areas frequently affected in this way include:
- Lincoln, Gainsborough, Boothby Graffoe, Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire.
Wherever you live, it’s worth noting that despite ‘average’ rainfall year on year, the Environment Agency has issued a warning that flooding in the UK is likely to become more frequent, thanks to climate change.
How can you find out your level of risk?
Gov.uk holds a wealth of information and tools to help you plan ahead, help you during a flood and to recover after a flood. You can also view the latest river and sea levels near you and look up your property’s long term risk of flooding. Be prepared and sign up for advance flood warnings and view your area’s risk of flooding in the next five days.
Check the online Flood Map for Planning tool, to research any identified flooding risk to an area, based on a postcode search. This tool is linked to the Environment Agency research and data.
Search the interactive flood map provided by Friends of the Earth.
Look more closely at the flood risk to a particular property using the Gov.uk’s online service. This includes information on applying direct to the Environment Agency for data relating to a property, which can be extremely useful for insurance purposes and when deciding whether to purchase or rent a property.
Understand what the statistics or research information is telling you about your level of risk is also important. For example:
The Gov.uk postcode checker offers a clear indication of levels of risk according to zones:
Zone 1: Low probability of river or sea flooding (less than 1 in 1,000 annually).
Zone 2: Medium probability (between 1 in 10 and 1 in 1,000 annually for river flooding; between 1 in 200 and 1 in 1,000 annually for sea flooding).
Zone 3a: High probability – 1 in 100 or greater annual probability of river flooding; and 1 in 200 or greater annual probability of sea flooding).
Zone 3b: Functional Floodplain where strategic risk management and assessment is in place.
Results are offered in a visual map and text-based form, which immediately tells you the level of risk – dark blue areas of land are at risk of sea flooding) and makes it easy to tell if you are living (or proposing to live) in an area benefiting from flood defences.
The Environment Agency classifies areas with Medium and High risk of flooding, which means:
High risk: A more than one in 30 chance of the property being affected by flooding across one year.
Medium risk: a chance of between one in 30 and one in 100 that the property may be affected by flooding in a given year.
3: Take action
Once you know the level of risk to your wider area and immediate locality, it can be possible to minimise your overall risk by taking preventative action:
- Learn about flood planning for your local area (with additional research through your local council, and the Environment Agency’s flood map for planning).
- Keep checking in with the Gov.uk services, and use their online tools to monitor the risk of flooding in your area.
- You can also call the national Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or follow @EnvAgency on Twitter to keep up to date with the latest news and advice.
- If your area is suffering from flooding continue to check for further flood warnings and follow the advice of the emergency services and The Environment Agency – such as to stay away from swollen rivers and not to walk or drive through flood water as just 30cm of flowing water is enough to move a car.
- Protect your property by buying or hiring flood defences or making adjustments to the construction of your home. Which should you choose – sandbags or plastic flood barriers? Find out more about the best way to protect your property here.
- Check with your insurers to ensure you’re adequately covered.
Hit by flooding? You might be eligible for financial help.
The Government has announced it will provide immediate relief on council tax and business rates to households and business owners significantly affected by flooding. Under the measures, households and businesses which have been intensely affected by the flooding will be eligible for 100% relief on their council tax and business rates.
The Government’s Farming Recovery Fund has also been extended to support farmers badly affected by flooding in 2019 across Yorkshire and the Midlands. Grants of between £500 to £25,000 are available to help flood-hit farmers cover repair costs and get back on their feet.
In the first instance contact your local authority as it will be able to provide you with further guidance. Many councils have set up hardship schemes which are available to residents and businesses whose households or business premises have been affected by flooding.
If you think your property is at risk of flooding remain vigilant and take steps to prepare for flooding. Call us today for professional advice and to find out more about our range of flood defences.