1978 North Sea storm surge

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1978 North Sea storm surge
Burning debris from destroyed pier on Margate beach.jpg
Margate pier was badly damaged by the storm of 11–12 January 1978 leaving the beach littered with debris, piles of it were collected up and burned on the beach.
Type European windstorm, Extratropical, Extratropical storm surge
Formed 11 January 1978
Dissipated 12 January 1978
Lowest pressure 976 hPa (28.8 inHg)[1]
Areas affected United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Netherlands.

1978 North Sea storm surge was a storm surge which occurred over January 11–12 causing extensive coastal flooding and considerable damage on the east coast of England between the Humber and Kent.[1][2] Higher water levels were reached than during the devastating North Sea flood of 1953 from North Shields to King's Lynn, but values were lower towards the Thames.[1] Locally severe flooding occurred in Lincolnshire, The Wash, north Norfolk and Kent. Improvements in flood protection following the devastating flood of 1953 meant that the catastrophic losses seen during that storm were not repeated. The storm caused severe damage to many piers along the east coast of England.

Meteorological history[edit]

Warnings and preparedness[edit]

Flood warnings were issued two to three hours before the highest water levels in the coastal towns of Lincolnshire.[1] Clement Freud the Member of Parliament for North East Cambridgeshire called for an inquiry into the failure of the flood warnings in East Anglia.[3] The Junior Minister Shirley Summerskill reported that an "Alert" message was received by Police in Wisbech at 0705 hours and a further message at 1414 hours confirming that there was danger of tidal flooding at 1928 hours. On receipt of the second message, the Fenland District Council was notified immediately. The message was passed simultaneously to the Anglian Water Authority by the Cambridgeshire Constabulary headquarters.[4] Gavin Strang of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food responded that the storm tide warning service issued an alert to the Norfolk Police at 0625 hours and a warning at 1318 hours on 11 January in relation to the Norfolk coast as far east as Mundesley. An alert for the coastal area to the East and South of Mundesley was issued at 1150 hours and a warning at 1810 hours. The police are responsible for passing on these messages to other authorities.[5]


In Humberside a police car was swept away by the rising waters at Spurn Point.[6] In Cleethorpes a total of 1,500 houses were affected by flooding during the event. 1,017 houses were flooded above floor level, a further 185 houses were flooded below floor level and 288 houses had their gardens flooded. It was estimated that £1,600,000 (1978) worth of damage was caused to private property and goods in Cleethorpes. One of the big differences between 1978 and the storm surge during the Gale of January 1976 in the town, was that damage occurred much further inland. Damage was reported up to three-quarters of a mile away from the sea wall.[7] In Cleethorpes the damage spread over an area of 5 km² in total.[1] The railway between Grimsby and Cleethorpes was left inoperable as the ballast was washed out from under the track.[6] Further south on the Lincolnshire coast the resorts of Sandilands and Mablethorpe saw 28 homes and 8 business premises left underwater, with caravans and chalets along the Lincolnshire coast damaged.[1] In Boston, Lincolnshire following the failure of a brick retaining wall, St Botolph's Church and 180 houses were flooded.[1] Waters in the church exceeded the levels seen in 1953.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Steers, J. A.; Stoddart, D. R., Bayliss-Smith, T. P., Spencer, T. and Durbidge, P. M. (July 1979). "The Storm Surge of 11 January 1978 on the East Coast of England". The Geographical Journal 145 (2): 192–205. doi:10.2307/634386. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "Case Study - Floods". Met Office. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  3. ^ "February 7, 1978". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Commons). col. 514. 
  4. ^ "February 7, 1978". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Commons). 
  5. ^ "January 19, 1978". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Commons). 
  6. ^ a b "Furious storms punch through resort's defences". Grimsby Telegraph. 10 January 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "February 13, 1978". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Commons). 
  8. ^ "Boston residents urged to be prepared for possible major flooding event". Boston Target. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 

External links[edit]