Winter storms of 2013–14 in the United Kingdom

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Llanaber rail storm damage 2014.jpg
Wave damage caused 3 January at Llanaber railway station
Duration 4 December 2013 – 25 February 2014 (Including St Jude Storm on 28 October 2013)
Fatalities at least 17 dead
Areas affected
United Kingdom and Ireland

During the winter of 2013–14 the British Isles were in the path of several winter storms, which culminated in serious coastal damage and widespread persistent flooding. The storms brought the greatest January rainfall in Southern England since at least the year records began, 1910. The season saw persistent flooding on the Somerset Levels with recurrent fluvial flooding in Southern England of the non-tidal Thames, Severn and in Kent, Sussex and Hampshire and the Stour in Dorset. Briefer coastal flooding and wave battering damage took place in exposed parts of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

The season began with the St Jude's day storm on 28 October which was the authenticated cause of 5 deaths in Britain and a further 12 across countries in the rest of Europe.

The weather flowed from variations in the Pacific and North Atlantic jet streams described by the Met Office as 'major perturbations' which it has attributed partially to persistent rainfall over the tropical Pacific Ocean as far as Indonesia. The jet stream above was also particularly strong, which was linked by the Met Office to exceptional wind patterns in the stratosphere and a very intense polar vortex.

Wrought headline damage included the coastal destruction of ballast and sea wall below the railway line to Cornwall, blocking of five other inter-city lines, swelling of the Severn to flood some Worcester and Gloucester homes and swelling of the Thames to flood more than 2400 homes in Berkshire and Surrey.[1][2][3]

The public body, supervised by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs responsible for planning for wind and water damage mitigation, and for issuing alerts on the national level is the Environment Agency, who are referred to in this article as 'the EA'.

Preparations[edit]

Throughout the winter the Met Office and Met Éireann issued various alerts and warnings for the British Isles. This included red warnings being issued by Met Éireann for the wind in Ireland on 20 December including Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo and Sligo.[citation needed] Met Éireann also issued a red warning during 27 December for Clare, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Waterford and Wexford.[4][4] The Met Office issued their first red warning since January 2013 for the wind in Wales and Northwestern England on 12 February.[5] The EA issued flood alerts and warnings with 14 severe flood warnings issued for the River Thames in Surrey and Berkshire.[6] The EA also closed/raised the Thames Barrier 13 times during January, and at various other times to protect London.[7][8] It was also shut on 10 February due to a strong high tide.[8]

Impact[edit]

Flooding in a North Sea storm surge on 4–5 December 2013 damaged 1,400 buildings and 6,800 hectares (17,000 acres) of land, yet caused no direct deaths which was attributed to the warnings that were issued several days in advance and the improved coastal defences that had been built by the EA and others since 1953.[7]

About 600 troops were deployed across England and Wales to assist with flood protection and relief, with around another 1,000 on standby during the night of 12 February.[9]

All types of flooding were recorded, taking the winter season as a whole: fluvial flooding, groundwater flooding, surface water drain or sewer overflow (see Camden LB), estuarine tidal surges and non-estuarine coastal flooding and erosion. Landslides blocking cuttings and sinkholes damaging roads and buildings were recorded but few in number. The total number of homes flooded was fewer than the 2007 United Kingdom floods with overall flooding akin to the Autumn 2000 western Europe floods.

The Energy Networks Association estimated about 80,000 homes and businesses were without electricity for more than a day on 12 February 2014.[10] It published that almost 450,000 homes and businesses suffered power cuts over the night of 14–15 February 2014.[11]

At sea[edit]

In the English Channel, a strong wave crashed through a window of a cruise ship injuring people and killing a man.[11]

Wales[edit]

A man in his 30s who went kayaking with a group of friends on the River Usk between Llangynidr and Crickhowell went missing on the afternoon of 7 February.[8][12] 20 police officers, H.M Coastguard and a search and rescue helicopter were involved in the search[12] along with friends and family[13] and found his drowned body two days later.[12] Police warned locals to avoid going on the swollen river.[12]

The Fire Service responded to flooding near Bwlch y Garreg and the Norton area of Llangynidr. Fire crews in Powys pumped water away from a street in Brecon and Duffryn Crawnen in Crickhowell, and dealt with flooding at the Royal Oak Inn in Presteigne.[14]

Flooding had closed the A525 between Bangor-on-Dee and Cross Lane in Wrexham County.[14] The A490 was closed due to flooding between the A458/A483 at Sarn Bryn Caled roundabout, Welshpool, and the B4388 at Cilcewydd Bridge.[14] Restrictions were put in place on the M48 Severn Bridge due to strong crosswinds.

A few days of flooding in east Berkshire on the Great Western Line from south Wales to London caused delays and cancellations.[14] The A44 was closed for a time after a lorry became stuck in snow at Capel Bangor in Ceredigion between the A4159 and the A4120 at Ponterwyd and The A470 between the Storey Arms and Libanus was partially blocked on the afternoon of the 11th after two accidents in the snow.[14] One car left the road and the other accident involved two cars.[14] Snow ploughs were out on the A44 around Ponterwyd early on 10 February.[14]

Brynllywarch Hall School in Newtown was closed to pupils due to bad weather while in Gwynedd, Ysgol Llandwrog closed due to a power cut.[14]

BT said that "Engineers for Openreach throughout Wales are working hard to repair those lines affected as quickly as possible, and additional engineers have been drafted in from less badly affected areas to bolster the workforce". Parts of west, south west and north Wales experienced fault levels going up by 30% for telephone and broadband services because of damage to overhead and underground lines.[14]

Top gusts for the season, up to 112 mph (180 km/h), were recorded in several monitoring stations, most of which were in Wales, on 12 February 2014.[10]

A 77 year old man died when a tree fell on him in Caethro, Caernarfon.[11]

A man had been rescued from flood water in Llandogo in Monmouthshire after he had driven his van into 60 cm (2 ft) of water.[14]

Warwickshire[edit]

A landslip outside Harbury tunnel shut the Birmingham-Marylebone rail line for about a week.[15][16][17][18]

Sussex, Surrey and Kent[edit]

A heavy precipitation storm before Christmas Day (Dirk) dropped up to 60 mm of rain across parts of Southern England in 48 hours. A major incident was declared in the valley of the river Mole: Leatherhead, Fetcham and Brockham, on 24 December. Kent Fire and Rescue Service unions called off their planned strike to add to Surrey Fire and Rescue Service help. An EA spokesman said flooding in Kent and Sussex were the worst to hit the area since Autumn 2000. Flooding was severe in lowest parts of Maidstone and severe and prolonged in most of Yalding. More than 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) (10 km²) of flood plain agricultural fields were flooded across the counties.

Local authorities and emergency teams closed a few low-lying roads after Kent Fire and Rescue rescued:

  • 2 people from a car which was in 1.2 m (4 ft) of water on 7 February 2014.[19]
  • a 90 year old motorist in Hawkhurst, Kent on 7 February 2014
  • a man swept away in Canterbury on the morning of 8 February 2014[19]

Fire-fighters dealt with flooding in Patrixbourne on 9 February 2014.[19]

Operation Stack was launched on the M20 (coast-bound carriageway of the M20 closed from J11 with non-freight traffic diverted.) after delays caused by the overnight closure of the Port of Dover led to a build up of freight traffic. The London-bound lanes of M2 were blocked between J5 and 6 and a sliproad closed at J7. The QEII bridge was closed on 15 February 2014.[20]

Spelthorne Borough and Runnymede Borough, Surrey[edit]

Flooded gardens Chertsey January 2014

Thames flooding took place on both banks from Datchet, Berkshire down to Shepperton, upgraded to severe on 9 February, including into a large minority of Staines, Egham and a minority of Chertsey and Laleham and narrowly avoiding closing the M3 and M25 motorways.[19]

Residents in Staines were woken by telephone flood alerts as the River Thames submerged the Thames Path National Trail, flooding land (but not all homes) between Laleham Road and Penton Hook on 10 February.[21] Thames islands saw homes flooded and cut off such as Hamhaugh Island and Sunbury Court Island.

Egham Hythe was flooded by 11 February, reaching some way into Thorpe and Thorpe Lea, so too far northern and eastern streets of the town of Chertsey.[22]

As about 1,000 homes on or by the River Thames were evacuated, according to the EA, and 2,500 more homes were at risk of flooding in Chertsey. Surrey Police declared a "major incident" and deployed more than 100 officers to the area.[23] The force said it had been overwhelmed with 999 calls overnight and urged people only to call in an emergency.[23]

David Cameron and the MP for Spelthorne, Kwasi Kwarteng toured Staines.[24]

Local officials said 1,000 homes were flooded in Surrey alone[22] and that the flooding was the worst such incident since 1947.[22]

Berkshire[edit]

Power outage in west Berkshire[edit]

In parts of Reading and Newbury, 3,700 homes were without power on Tuesday evening when winds brought down lines on 24 December 2013.[25]

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Berkshire[edit]

As in 2003, there was considerable criticism of the Jubilee River, which successfully protected Maidenhead, but was blamed for increasing flooding in places such as Wraysbury, immediately downstream from (the rail) Black Potts Bridge where it rejoins the Thames.

Fire-fighters delivered supplies by boat and waded through water to help people trapped[citation needed] by floods in Wraysbury, Old Windsor and Datchet.[26]

The EA temporarily removed its staff from Wraysbury after two staff suffered abuse from locals. This may have been inspired by the Communities and Local Government Secretary's earlier 'outburst', the GMB Union said on 13 February 2014.[27][27]

A Borough Councillor for Horton and Wraysbury said the village had experienced looting and directed the police and Army's attention to this on 13 February 2014.[27]

A National Rail spokesman said on 9 February that the River Thames had flooded track on the Staines to Windsor Line, shorting out the conductor rail.[28]

Delays and reduced services due to flooding at Maidenhead lasted two days as signalling and safety equipment was affected.[29]

As the Met Office predicted yet more rain forecast by the authorities to fall overnight, police declared a "major incident" in east Berkshire on 10 February.[8]

Parts of Datchet were flooded on 10–11 February as the water level rose over half a metre in 24 hours[citation needed], blocking several roads to vehicular traffic and blocking the railway line. Much of the nearby village of Wraysbury was flooded, with several roads typically under 40 cm of water at the peak on 11 February. At Thames Ditton, the river burst its banks and more property was expected to flood. The same was true up to East and West Molesey on 10 February.[8]

Some people were evacuated in Wraysbury, Shepperton and Sunbury-on-Thames in Surrey, but most people decided not to leave, especially as properties remained accessible and they were worried about possible looting. Hundreds more properties in the region could be flooded over the next two or three days, the EA warned.[8]

Around 30,000 sandbags were deployed in Datchet, Old Windsor, Horton, Wraysbury and Cookham in Berkshire, with another 5,000 due to be sent out.[8]

Around 1,700 homes in Datchet, Berkshire, were hit by power cuts on the night of 12 February.[30]

The Duke of Cambridge and his brother, Prince Harry, joined in the emergency relief as they helped fill sandbags in Datchet, Berkshire on 14 February.[11]

Slough Borough, Berkshire[edit]

The (EA) flood warning was issued from the village of Colnbrook on 4 February, where 750 sandbags were deployed to shore up the County Ditch with Borough funding.[31][31] On the 4th a rise in the groundwater levels was expected with heavy rainfall.[32] SBC officials visited the village in the morning of the 5, where water levels subsided slightly, to issue an amber warning until the night of the 8th.[32] The council offered directly in Colnbrook:

We had like to reassure those residents that we’re here for them 24 hours a day, and if their home becomes uninhabitable and they have nowhere else to go we will be on hand to help".

[32] The council’s adult social care team consulted with GPs and the EA about access.[32]

Slough Borough Council stuck to its policy of not supplying sandbags to residents,[33] leaving The Sun newspaper, local firms and Slough-based charity Khalsa Aid[34] to step in when the scale of the flooding became apparent.

Elsewhere, officers began cleaning flood screens in the Manor Park, Chalvey and Salt Hill, but some roads in the Manor Park area saw minor flooding over the weekend, although the water had drained away by 4 February.[31]

That night, SBC officials delivered letters to the affected roads and those most at risk of flooding, including six major residential roads.[32]

The emergency services handed out a second warning letter to many homes in Horton and Colnbrook on 7 February.[32]

Reading Borough, Berkshire[edit]

Local officials closed Abbey Street in Reading for emergency works to take place to fix wind damage to The Blade, Reading's tallest building on 24 December 2013.[25] Closed on the night of 23 December by the falling debris, the Inner Distribution Road in Reading reopened at midday on Christmas Eve.[25]

Trains on the Waterloo to Reading Line were delayed on Christmas Eve while a tree was cleared on 24 December.[25]

Red warnings on the Kennet from Theale to Reading, including in Burghfield, Calcot, Southcote and at The Oracle Shopping Centre were issued on 7 January 2014.[35]

Firefighters pumped out flood water at Burghfield's Pingewood sub-station under threat of flooding on 8 February 2014, serving 40,000 homes.[36][36] Flooding threatened the electrical facility in December 2012 and at that time Scottish and Southern Energy planned to reroute supplies if the substation if it went out of action.[36] They were also called to an EA building by Fobney Lock between Whitley and Southcote which flooded over the night of 7–8 February.[36]

Flooding included farmed meadows and the major roundabout in the east at Winnersh on the Wokingham border. A man fell into the Thames and straying from the residential island, a man was left "hanging from a tree branch and suspended over water at Caversham Lock."[36] Fire crews were called out to stranded motorists towards the River Loddon.[36]

Fire crew manager Richard Thomas said one of the boiler rooms at the substation filled with 60 centimetres (2 ft) of water and that was also where some live electric cables were submerged by the rising tide.[36]

Reading firefighters had battled 24 hour battle overnight to stop the flooding at Burghfield's Pingewood electricity sub-station on 9 February 2014.[37] Soldiers from Brock Barracks were drafted in to fill sandbags and a specialist high volume pumping unit was installed in efforts on 8 February 2014, having been threatened again a month earlier.[37]

West Berkshire Council Borough, Berkshire[edit]

Newbury Station house was closed because of flooding with water pouring off the platforms on 4 January[38] and flood warnings were issued for the Loddon, Kennet (severe at Theale only) and Enborne rivers on 24 December.[25] Rural Sulhamstead was flooded on 24 December.

Aldermaston village had no power for 24 hours and access was restricted because of the high waters on 23–24 December.[25] Its civil parish council chairman, David Shirt, criticised Southern Electric Power Distribution (SEPD) for a "lack of information" during the power cut, the third in a month, on 24 December.[25] A company spokesperson issued a statement that said that customer care staff in its two centres were working together to provide updates and information to customers on 24 December.[25]

Oxfordshire[edit]

Parts of Henley-on-Thames had been flooded for a week by 10 February.[8]

Some flooding hit Oxford, with slow-flowing tributaries to north and west, on 13 February.[39]

Hampshire[edit]

Basingstoke, Hampshire[edit]

Flooding from rising ground water levels in the chalk aquifer supplying the river Loddon caused some flooding to the Buckskin area of Basingstoke during early February 2014, particularly on 13 February.[40] By 25 February, the BBC was reporting that 83 homes had been evacuated. Overflowing sewers were contaminating the water that covered all low-lying areas and had entered many houses.

Ground water flooding also caused flooding to mostly fields in villages south of Basingstoke such as at Preston Candover.

Winchester[edit]

The River Itchen burst its banks by the centre of medieval Winchester so the Royal Navy was called in to assist with the erection of flood barriers and sand bags. Hampshire Fire and Rescue supplied high capacity pumps, while the EA created an artificial dam to slow the river flow by winching eighty 1 tonne bags of gravel from the M3 into the River Itchen at Easton to flood several hundred acres of farmland and meadows and avoid flooding the city centre. Ground water flooding also occurred in villages close to Winchester.[41]

Milford on Sea[edit]

32 people from the Marine Restaurant in Milford on Sea, Hampshire, had to be rescued by Police and Army units at 10 pm on 15 February 2014.[11] Several cars were damaged by flying shingle and many beach huts destroyed by the waves.

Isle of Wight[edit]

The St Jude Day storm made landfall in the early hours of 28 October. A gust of 99 miles per hour (159 km/h) was recorded at The Needles Battery, Isle of Wight. Over the British mainland peak gusts were limited to 75 mph (120 km/h). Speeds of 150 mph (65 metres per second) were measured at the Gunfleet Sands Offshore Wind Farm.

Gusts of 96 mph (154 km/h) were recorded at The Needles on the Isle of Wight on 13 February.[41]

Worcestershire and Herefordshire[edit]

Flood barrier Upton-upon-Severn, Worcestershire

Worcester's main bridge was closed for 24 hours over 9 and 10 February as the River Severn rose to its highest level in seven years and the River Teme in Worcestershire has burst its banks.[42] As a result of this roadworks on Bath Road, Newtown Road and Droitwich Road in Worcester were suspended on safety grounds.[42]

When the Rose and Crown at Severn Stoke was flooded, surveyors said would be closed for months Landlord Peter Fryar said: "The defences were holding yesterday [Sunday] and I really thought we had be here today... but this has just totally surprised us."[42]

The EA expected water levels on the Severn in Worcester to peak at a higher level on 11 February. The EA spokesman, Dave Throup, said: "Unfortunately, we're expecting another peak tomorrow with the rain that's just in the system coming down from Wales.[42]

BBC Hereford and Worcester reporter Lucy King, speaking from the side of the Severn in Upton, said: "The river is looking extremely full." "The flood defences, though, are working. The water level is up to the top of the wall."[42]

The river levels at Leintwardine, Herefordshire, which are usually flow at between 0.3 m and 1.4 m, were 1.7 m earlier on Monday.[42] The Village of Worcester Oaks was later flooded. Flooding hit lower Pembridge, Kingsland and Yarpole on 10 February.[42]

Devon and Cornwall[edit]

A motorist was killed in Launceston on 4 January 2014.[43]

Harry Martin, 18, was washed off a coastal path between Mothecombe and Wembury Point, near Plymouth on 4 January 2014.[43]

The towns of Perranporth, Looe, Mevagissey, Porthleven, Newquay had all suffered badly after the remains of America's Storm/Cyclone Hercules hit on 31 January.[44]

The EA, issued maximum strength flood warnings for the Cornish coast and Penzance, Mullion and Kingsand on the South coast and Newquay and St Ives, on 31 January.[44]

The fact that the gales will coincide with high spring tides means storm surges could inundate Cornish coastal communities.[44]

An EA spokesman commented that the wind speed and direction was forecast to be a South Westerly force 8 on Saturday morning veering West South Westerly force 10 in the afternoon. He added "Waves are forecast to be over 6 m, with a tidal surge around 500 mm. "Over-topping of coastal defences is expected. Exposed coastal locations are most at risk.".[44] Residents in Bude and Portreath whose properties are at risk of flooding were advised by Cornwall Council to find temporary accommodation during the next day's high tide on 31 January 2014.[45]

Cornwall Council set up a control unit at County Hall, Silver Command, to coordinate any action required over weekend 2 February 2014.[46]

A French fishing vessel was found in difficulties outside of Newquay harbour but it was later rescued.[46]

Looe was flooding and fire crews were there dealing with minor issues. The main road in Bude became closed.[46]

The Watering Hole on Perranporth Beach and Towan Beach Road in Newquay collapsed. Coastal flooding afflicted Porth and the coastal road at Polzeath.[46]

In St Ives paramedics called to treat a woman after the wind caught a window beside her, and fire services pumped out a flooded home.[46]

Kingsand, in south east Cornwall, suffered damage to its clock tower on 4 February.[47]

Police and Cormac Crews entered Portreath, Bude, Perranporth, Wadebridge and Looe, Portreath and St Ives to tackle the flooding.[46]

It was reckoned that storms had caused more than £4 million worth of damage across Cornwall in a month, the local authority has estimated on 4 February 2014.[2]

Firefighters rescued a man from a vehicle stuck in flood water near the city of Exeter.[2] Sea defences, walls and footpaths were damaged, including at Newlyn Green 4 February 2014.[2] Police closed the arterial Tamar Bridge between the city of Plymouth and Saltash, Cornwall for a day while wind speeds surpassed 70 mph (110 km/h; 31 m/s) on 4 February (and to high-sided lorries on the 4th and 5th).[2]

On 5 February, a total of 2,300 homes remained without power in the West Country, while representatives from Cornwall Council said fire crews were dealing with floods and other problems in Polkerris, Fowey and Looe.[48] A prediction of 20 millimetres (0.79 in) of rainfall was given by weather forecasters at MeteoGroup that evening.[49]

At Exmouth, Sidmouth and Seaton the seafronts were closed and the high tides flooded properties in Exmouth, Lympstone, Starcross and Topsham on 5 February.[48] The EA warned that the South West could face further flooding due to further rain and heavy winds in the next few days.[48]

In nearby Torcross, several houses were heavily damaged by wind and waves, including battering through a front door and causing window damage in Kingsand throughout the night.[48]

High tides damaged and soaked Plymouth's Hoe seafront and the nearby Barbican.[50] Near the city of Exeter, firefighters rescued a man from a vehicle stuck in floodwater.[2] Sea defences, walls and footpaths have been damaged, including at Newlyn Green 4 February 2014.[2] The Tamar Bridge between Plymouth in Devon and Saltash in Cornwall was closed to all traffic for a period after wind speeds surpassed 70 mph (110 km/h; 31 m/s), and high sided lorries for the next day as well, police said on the 4th.[2]

It was reckoned that storms had caused more than £4 million worth of damage across Cornwall in a month, the local authority has estimated on 4 February 2014.[2]

16 severe flood warnings were in place, issued for coastal communities from Cornwall to Hampshire, in riverside parts of Gloucester and in north Surrey on 15 February 2014 [11]

The A30 eastbound in Cornwall was closed at the A3047 and the A40 in Gloucestershire in both directions at the A417 on 15 February 2014.[20]

Dorset[edit]

On Christmas Eve, the Environment Agency issued a Severe Flood Warning for the residents of Iford Bridge Home Park and all 65 homes were flooded by the River Stour. This was one of a few Severe Flood Warnings issued outside of Somerset. The Severe Flood Warning was later downgraded but reinstated on January 3rd. [51]

Teams of local volunteers tried to save homes, but could not match the fluvial and groundwater flooding in the small coastal resort of Swanage for 30 years on 6 February.[52][53]

The coast in the east was most badly hit on 9 and 10 February.[54]

The Avon Causeway reopened on 10th along with the Shore Road, Swanage, closed since the 4th due to high tides and stormy conditions. Wareham's South Causeway also reopened with the Borough of Poole working to clear wreckage, but Stapehill Road and Stony Lane in Burton took longer to reopen.

A large sea monitoring buoy, washed up on Sandbanks beach was quickly recovered by its owners on the 10th.

On 10 February 2014 during a visit to Chesil Beach on the Jurassic Coast, David Cameron said: "I back the Environment Agency, I back the work they're doing. Everyone has to get on with the job that they're doing. That's all I'm interested in at the moment."[21]

Hambledon, Romsey and Christchurch saw flooding on 13 February.[41]

The Somerset Levels[edit]

The view from Burrow Mump above Burrowbridge, Somerset

There was severe flooding to the Somerset Levels as the River Parret overflowed, with many residents asking for the EA to resume river dredging.[49] Claims that the government had not been quick enough to react and provide assistance to flooded residents were made to media correspondents and ministers.

On 24 January 2014, in light of the continued flooded extent of the Somerset Moors and forecast recurrent rainfall, Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council declared a major incident.[55][56] At this time, with 17,000 acres (6,900 ha) of agricultural land having been under water for over a month,[56] the village of Thorney had been abandoned and Muchelney had been cut off by flood waters for almost a month by that time.[55] The DEFRA Secretary of State Owen Paterson visited the area on 27 January 2014, and after meeting local MPs, the EA and various community representatives the night before in Taunton, promised at a media-only press conference at North Moor pumping station that if a local water management plan could be developed over the next six weeks, he would approve it.[57] Such plan would likely include the dredging of the rivers Tone and Parrett, and possibly a later sluice near Bridgwater.[58] There have been public protests about the river Parrett not being dredged in recent years.

A small unit of Mounted Police patrolled parts of the Somerset Levels after reports of items being stolen from the homes of flood victims a third time. The thieves have already taken heating oil and quad bikes.[59]

Prince Charles visited the flooded parts of Somerset on 4 February 2014 and told residents it was a "tragedy" nothing had been done for so long. Local volunteers, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the firefighters did their best, but required more help from central government. One of the Prince's charities is donating £50,000 to help victims, while the government then announced an extra £300,000 of emergency funding.[60] Some villages on the Somerset Levels had been cut off for more than a month by 4 February 2014.[60]

The Ministry of Defence sent around 40 Royal Marines to the Somerset Levels to help with flood protection as more storms were expected on 6 February. The Government also provided an extra £30 million for repairs on the 6th.[61]

Bridgwater was partly flooded on 10 February 2014.[62]

As he visited to the flood-hit Somerset levels, Nick Clegg said "[now is not the time] to point the finger of blame" on 10 February 2014.[21]

During the week to 11 February more than 600 UK homes flooded although 180,000 properties had been protected from flooding, the EA announced. 16 Severe flood warnings were issued in the south of England.[49]

Both flooding and groundwater disrupted services  stopped on the Bristol to Exeter Line between Bridgwater and Taunton.[49] Trains from London to South West England were stopped or redirected due to line collapse at Dawlish, Devon and flooding at Maidenhead, Berkshire.[49]

8 high-output Dutch pumps removing floodwater at Dunball Somerset

A Dutch team of engineers had arrived in at a sluice at Bridgwater with more than 20 lorries full of kit and pumps to help with the flood relief effort in Somerset on 12 February.[63] By 21 February 8 high-output pumps located at Dunball were starting to lower the level in King's Sedgemoor Drain allowing floodwater-from the upper Parrett to reach it by way of the Sowy River. The water is pumped into the tidal river Parrett for several hours on either side of a high tide. At low tide the water drains through the sluice gates at Dunball by gravity. The Monks Leaze Clyse, near Langport was gradually opened on Saturday 22 February, allowing the operation to start.[64]

Some of the 20,000 sandbags were ready to be deployed in Somerset on 10 February 2014.[21]

The EA's south west office had reported that a temporary flood barrier in Bridgwater, Somerset has been vandalised by unknown assailants.[13]

An earth bank at Huntworth was hastily built, connecting the canal bank to the railway embankment and the embankment to the river wall. This was to prevent any flooding from reaching the outskirts of Bridgwater. Some of the Dutch pumps were located behind it at Newhouse Farm to pump any water away.[65]

There has been enormous local support for those affected by the floods, co-ordinated by FLAG — the Flooding on the Levels Action Group. As well as having volunteers in the villages, they are organising fund-raising, and the collection of supplies to help those who have suffered. They make extensive use of social media - Facebook and Twitter to communicate news.[66]

Once the rain largely ceased and the floods began to abate, work began to clear up the mess. Farm animals began to be returned home, and on 31 March dredging began at Burrow Bridge [67]

Gloucestershire[edit]

Flooded River Severn from Wainlode Hill

On the morning of 10 February, flooding from the River Severn closed part of the A38 in Tewkesbury According to Gloucestershire County Council.[68]

Tewkesbury Borough Council offered to accommodate flood victims at its emergency rest centre in its Gloucester Road offices as [68] council staff visited 60 properties to issue sand bags and had been filling others for the town council to use, some of which had been later stolen.[68]

Cumbria[edit]

11 people were rescued from cars trapped in snow on Kirkstone Pass on Friday 31 January as winter storms battered Cumbria.[69]

Snow fell in Cumbria on the night of 11–12 February.[70]

Greater London[edit]

Camden LB[edit]

The London Mid Level Sewer Number 2 became partially blocked between Camden and St Marks Church on the 5th due to an accumulation of litter and fallen leaves, inspected on 8 February and was cleared out two days later.[8][71]

Croydon LB[edit]

Mayor Boris Johnson told Londoners his authorities had planned for such flood as[71][72] an ongoing flooding threat to the Kenley Water Treatment Works continued on 13 February 2014.[71][72][73]

Richmond upon Thames LB[edit]

Thames islands adjoining and including large Platts Eyot and Eel Pie Island saw their gardens and in some cases homes flooded. No houseboats were reported as flooded. The Shepperton Branch Line serving Hampton, London was closed for more than a week due to flooding at Fulwell, Twickenham. Hampton Court Palace saw its river towpath closed and the moat flooded for the second time in 10 years.[74]

Westminster LB[edit]

High Holborn was briefly closed as a result of masonry falling on to a car on 15 February 2014.[20] A woman was killed when part of a building collapsed on to the car.[11]

Wiltshire[edit]

A lorry driver died on the M4 in the morning of 12 February.[75] At 07:00 police received reports of a hay lorry between junction 17 (Chippenham) and junction 18 (Bath), fell in to a ditch approximately 1 to 2 miles (2 to 3 km) west of Leigh Delamere Services.[75] Police, ambulance and fire attended, but the 62-year-old male trucker from St Breward in Cornwall, was pronounced dead at the scene.[75]

A Wiltshireman later was killed on 12 February while he was trying to clear a tree that had brought down power cables at Hilperton Road in Bremhill, near Calne.[76] Several fallen tree blocked roads in Trowbridge causing delays.[76]

Cheshire and Derbyshire[edit]

Sudden snowfall caused problems in Cheshire and Derbyshire though as the cold weather closed the A54 between Bosley and Buxton and sections of the A57 Snake Pass in Glossop on the morning of 13 February.[39]

Lancashire[edit]

Winds later reached up to 100 mph on 13 February 2014.[77] Trains on the West Coast main line were out of service in the county as slates began falling from roofs and falling trees across Lancashire.[77]

Northern Ireland[edit]

Officials from Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) warned of possible power cuts due to damage to the electricity network caused by the severe storms predicted for later in Christmas Eve on the morning on 24 December 2013.[78]

About 4,000 customers in Northern Ireland lost electricity after severe gales of the night of 26–27 December 2013.[4]

The strong night time winds have caused an electricity pylon to crash into 2 homes at 10pm St Annes Terrace in Mayobridge, Co Down on 27 December 2013. No one was badly hurt, but a house was on fire according to SDLP MLA Karen McKevitt.[79]

Scotland[edit]

Two walkers went missing on Ben Nevis in the Highlands, but Police Scotland confirmed that the walkers have been found "safe and well" on 15 February 2014.[11]

Transport[edit]

David Cameron chaired his first Cobra meeting this year on 5 February and announced an extra £100 million for flood works over the next year, as he insisted everything possible was being done to get "stricken" communities moving again by midday.[48][80][81]

Many roads closed due to flooding stretched across the country. The towns of Staines, Henley-on-Thames and Cookham all had streets under water and many routes in Somerset also remained impassable. Other places with less flooded roads included the cities of Oxford and Worcester, Purley and Wrexham in north Wales on 13 February.[82]

Several major roads were hit with the A29 at Shripney in West Sussex, the A32 in Hampshire, various roads in Norfolk and Suffolk and the A4113 in Herefordshire.[82]

Snowfall caused problems in Cheshire and Derbyshire though as the cold weather closed the A54 between Bosley and Buxton and sections of the A57 Snake Pass in Glossop on the morning of 13 February.[82]

Gatwick Airport saw delays and long queues before Christmas as the Mole flooded an electrical substations and the North Terminal.[83]

On 11 February a hole with a depth of about 4.6 m (15 ft) appeared in the central reservation of the M2 motorway in Kent[84] so the Highways Agency closed the whole motorway between J5 and J6.[84] On the next day geotechnical investigations took place to find its cause while 40 t (39 long tons; 44 short tons) of gravel was poured in to the hole to help stabilise it.[84] Three lanes each way reopened on 13 February.[84] Initially suspected to have been a sinkhole,[84] the investigations revealed that the cavity was actually a dene hole.[85][86]

Major closures included on 15 February 2014:

  • A30 one-way in Cornwall
  • A40 in Gloucestershire near Gloucester.[20]
  • A29 at Shripney, West Sussex
  • A32 in Hampshire
  • A47 in Norfolk at the A1065
  • A1065 in Suffolk
  • Various A roads in Norfolk and Suffolk briefly
  • A4113 in Herefordshire
  • A36/A350 at Warminster, Wiltshire
  • A249 Sheppey Crossing, Kent.[20][20]

Highways Agency although not responsible for most roads advised that day on a local level: "We strongly urge everyone planning to travel in Dorset, Wiltshire and Devon to check their route and weather conditions before setting out." on 15 February 2014.[20]

Several services between Weymouth and Guernsey, operated by Condor Ferries were cancelled, as were some sailings between Holyhead and Dublin on Irish Ferries. Many sailings by DFDS into and out of Newhaven were thus cancelled, as have Brittany Ferries' Portsmouth to St Malo service on 14 February 2014.[20]

London City Airport, Luton and Gatwick, cancellations and delays as a result of adverse weather, as was Southampton Airport. on 15 February 2014.[20]

Trains[edit]

The breach in the South Devon Railway sea wall at Dawlish

Throughout the winter floods, fallen trees and landslides caused disruption on a number of railway lines.[8][82] In early January, the Cambrian Coast railway line was significantly damaged, with the line between Dovey Junction and Pwllheli in Gwynedd closed because of flood damage at Tywyn, Barmouth and Criccieth.[87] The seawall at Llanaber was washed away by tidal flooding, with around 300 tonnes (300 long tons; 330 short tons) of ballast washed into the sea.[87][88] An 80 metres (260 ft) section of the South Devon Railway sea wall in Dawlish was washed away on 4 February, which caused major disruption on the Riviera Line and the main Exeter to Plymouth Line.[89] This effectively cut Devon and Cornwall off from the rest of the train network.[90] The weather also caused damage to Dawlish railway station and further down the line between Exeter and Newton Abbot.[2]

During 12 February the West Coast Main Line was closed between Preston and Lancaster for a few hours because of dangerously high winds, while overhead cables caught fire at Crewe Railway Station which caused disruption in Cheshire.[91] At one point all trains out of London Euston Station were cancelled, while Virgin Trains urged customers to abandon their travel.[30]

A National Rail spokesman said on 9 February that the River Thames has flooded at several locations between Staines and Windsor and Eton Riverside stations, shorting out the conductor rail.[28]

Reduced services due to flooding at Maidenhead, anticipated to reopen 13 February. The cause was that signal and safety equipment in the Maidenhead area has been affected by flooding. Network Rail staff began inspecting the damaged signalling later that evening.[29]

Workmen arrived on the morning of 5 February to assess the eroded land exposing ground services and hanging railway track after the sea wall collapsed in Dawlish.[48]

Floods led to delays between Porth and Pontypridd, while flooding on the line near Abergavenny in South Wales meant that trains could not run between Hereford and Newport, with replacement buses being laid on instead.[82] Train services between Manchester and Cardiff were disrupted and degraded, line between Bridgwater and Taunton was still cut. South west England train services were said to be affected for around six weeks by the devastating damage to lines at Dawlish in Devon.[82]

Services between Hastings in East Sussex and London's Charing Cross and Cannon Street stations were disrupted by three landslips with the section of line between Wadhurst and Battle in East Sussex, with Network Rail reckoning 16 February 2014 for a reopening A landslip, at Oxted in Surrey disrupted the line between East Grinstead/Uckfield in West Sussex and London's Victoria and London Bridge stations, while services were stopped between Woldingham and Oxted.[82]

Rail links to South West England were cut off by the storms on 8 February.[92]

Flooding and embankment damage disrupted rail services between Oxford and London on 6 February.[49]

All train services west of Dawlish (Devon and Cornwall) were cancelled and a separate landslide closed the main line to the city of Brighton, Sussex.[20]

Line closures were forced between: Basingstoke and Micheldever Junction (the main lines to Southampton, Salisbury and Dorset); Caterham and Purley, Queens Park and Watford Junction (all near London); Chichester and Havant (Sussex and Hampshire); Taunton and Bridgwater (Somerset); and Romsey and Salisbury (Hampshire and Wiltshire). A landslide closed the Brighton Main Line near Redhill, on 15 February 2014. For several days short-distance mid-Kent lines were closed.[20]

Ireland[edit]

Aer Arann and Aer Lingus Regional service lights diverted a flight from Shannon to Cork or cancelled and a Shannon to Manchester and return flights were also cancelled, while the Dublin to Kerry service that night was cancelled and a Ryanair flight to Shannon from Stansted was diverted to Dublin.[4] Aer Lingus flights from Shannon to Heathrow were also cancelled for safety reasons.[4]

All flights from and to Donegal Airport were cancelled during the night of 26 December 2013 and the morning of 27 December 2013 when a lightning strike caused damage to essential equipment as the coastline was hit in gusts up to 150 km/h hit Ireland’s coasts on 27 December 2013.[4]

Eircom reported treat night 7,300 customers affected by faulty lines.[4]

Stena Line cancelled its 13.30 ferry sailing from Dún Laoghaire to Holyhead and Irish Ferries also cancelled all its Swift sailings today along with two of its Cruise sailings that day.[4]

Both lifeboats and rescue helicopters continued to search for two Dutch tourists who disappeared after setting out for a walk along Sheep's Head in County Cork, Ireland on Monday 10 February 2014. It is assumed they were washed in to the sea.[8]

Reaction[edit]

UK Parliament[edit]

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson visited EA's emergency Northmoor pumping station near Bridgwater in Somerset on 26 January.[57]

There was personal criticism of head of the EA by Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger who described Lord Smith as a "little git", a "coward" and claimed he would "stick his head down the loo and flush".[93] The row focused on the flooding of the Somerset Levels and whether the River Parrett and River Tone should be dredged.[94]

The Environment secretary, Owen Paterson was ridiculed for not wearing appropriate footwear on a visit to the Somerset Level floods.[95]

On 7 February, the Environment Secretary handed over the flood management to the Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles as he had to undergo an urgent operation to fix a detached retina.[96] The Communities Secretary subsequently appeared on The Andrew Marr Show and apologised "unreservedly" for not dredging the Somerset Levels and said that "the government may have relied too much on the advice" of the EA.[97] The head of the EA Lord (Chris) Smith subsequently responded by openly rejecting the criticism of his organisation and defended it by saying that government budget cuts and "value-for-money" rules imposed by the Treasury were responsible for limiting the EA's response.[98][99] The media subsequently reported that the Environment Secretary had protested in the strongest possible terms to the Prime Minister about the Communities Secretary “grandstanding”.[100] On 11 February David Cameron ordered that the political bickering in government should end while on a visit to Dawlish where the railway had collapsed and Staines-upon-Thames where part of towns on both banks of the Thames had been flooded.[49]

As the Cobra committee met for two hours on 9 February, the prime minister phoned in and the communities secretary Eric Pickles said there is a "high risk" the Thames, Severn and Wye rivers were going to flood later that day.[98]

David Cameron visited EA personnel at Chesil Point, Berkshire, as parts of the river Thames in Berkshire and Surrey reached record levels on 1 February.[101] He visited the wrecked critical rail track link in Dawlish near Plymouth on 11 February.[102] David Cameron and the local MP visited flooded suburban homeowners in the town of Staines-upon-Thames.[24] Mr Cameron was under public pressure on the 13th to spell out where he would find the money for his pledge to "spend whatever was needed" to help those affected by severe flooding.[24] David Cameron pledged "unlimited" public funds and a £5,000 grant to flood out households in flood plains.[22]

The Councillor for Horton and Wraysbury, Colin Rayner, said the village had experienced looting and urged the police and Army to help on 13 February 2014.[27]

Royals[edit]

On 4 February, Prince Charles visited the flooded parts of Somerset and told residents it was a "tragedy" nothing had been done for so long. One of the Prince's charities is donating £50,000 to help victims, while the government then announced an extra £300,000 of emergency funding.[60]

Environment Agency[edit]

In an emotional plea during a live interview with Sky News, a local council official, Sue Burrows, said to the Prime Minister: "We need you, we need the army and we need bodies on the ground on 10 February.[8] "We are tackling this as a community because we refuse to go under, but you need to do something about this now."[8]

EA chairman Lord Smith said its staff and military personnel would be out in Wraysbury "tonight to help combat flooding" and David Cameron gave his support to the agency.[8]

The EA said that in that week more than 600 homes flooded, 180,000 properties were saved and 138,000 properties have been sent a free flood warning notice, the EA said on 10 February 2014.[21] It said England has suffered the wettest January since 1766, with records showing the country is moving towards the wettest three-month winter period in 250 years.[21]

Some of the 20,000 sandbags were ready to be deployed in Somerset on 10 February 2014.[21]

On a visit to Weymouth, Dorset, where coastal defences are being shored up after a weekend of severe weather, David Cameron backed the Government's response to flooding caused by the wettest January on record.[8]

The EA predicted the storm and flood-hit Britain could be left with a bill for more than £1 billion.[8] The EA also feared on 13 February 2014 that further rain would result in the wettest winter in 250 years.[72]

David Cameron responded to public anger and called for a premium rate helpline for flood victims to be scrapped after angry complaints from people affected by the floods who discovered they were being charged 41p a minute. On 3 February 2014 the Environment Agency said it makes no money on the calls.[103]

Deloitte's report[edit]

Loss prevention experts at Deloitte said the cost of the clear-up to insurers was estimated as £1 billion, in April 2014.[72]

Clergy[edit]

The Somerset Levels are in the Diocese of Bath and Wells. The Archdeacon of Bath, Ven. Andrew Piggott, said: "Business contracts have been lost, farmers and others who work hard on the land or care for animals have seen their livelihoods threatened...Rat infestation has increased by an estimated 25% and for more than a month in some communities no arrangements were made for the sanitary disposal of waste". Prayers were held on 10 February 2014.[13]

Transport[edit]

Network Rail said in a press release on 10 February that it is researching any long term solution and could take a new line further inland, such as via Tavistock and Okehampton and follow the route of the partially closed Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR. Other options included the Dawlish Avoiding Line which was investigated by the Great Western Railway or the Teign Valley route, via Christow and Heathfield.[104][105]

Meteorological analysis[edit]

During December 2013, several deep areas of low pressure moved across or to the north of the British Isles, bringing high wind speeds and heavy rain to many locations.[7] This weather was connected to major perturbations to the Pacific and North Atlantic jet streams, which was partially caused by persistent rainfall over Indonesia and the tropical Pacific Ocean.[7] The Northern Atlantic jet stream was also unusually strong, which was linked to an unusually strong westerly phase of the stratospheric Quasi-biennial oscillation which drove a very deep polar vortex and strong polar night jet.[7]

The storm between 4–5 December generated a major storm surge event within the North Sea, which coincided with one of the highest expected astronomical tides of the year and threatened much of the east coast.[7] The first major area of low pressure subsequently moved across the British Isles between 5–6 December and was followed by another system on 18–19 December, while a system moved to the north of the UK during 23–24 December.[106] This made December 2013 one of the stormiest Decembers on record, and one of the windiest months since January 1993.[107] It was also the wettest December and wettest month on record in Scotland.[108]

Figures released by the Met Office on 30 January indicated that Southern England and parts of the Midlands had experienced their highest January rainfall since records began in 1910.[109]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Media related to 2014 floods in England at Wikimedia Commons