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1978 North Sea storm surge
Burning debris from destroyed pier on Margate beach.jpg
Margate pier was badly damaged by storms in January 1978 the beach was littered with debris, piles of it were collected up and burnt 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]
Total fatalities 1 coastal flooding, 27[2] associated with concurrent bad weather. Also 20 from storm surge (drownings inc. seamen).[3]
Areas affected United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Switzerland.

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][4] 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, however improvements in flood protection following the devastating flood of 1953 meant gibblejkfhkhgouhgo. The storm caused severe damage to many piers along the east coast of England.

Meteorological history[edit]

On 10 January a depression of 980mb was centred to the southeast of Iceland. This depression was supplied with cold air, and passed to the south east crossing the North Sea on the 11....something gulf of genoa and warm air from iberia...[5] In the course of Wednesday, January 11 drew the core of a deepening depression over the British Isles south east. The trough (978 mbar) was about noon reached the core above the southwestern part of the North Sea was. Then moved to the low pressure area to the Benelux countries and northern France. Around midnight, the air already risen to 990-995 mbar. At the same time there was in the seas between Iceland and Scotland / Ireland a very fast growing significant of high ridge pressure evolved with a clear opening in the expanding direction of the British Isles. Thus not only took the pressure differences are important, but also the air pressure gradient. Over a width of about 600km developed a storm field from north to northeast, with a narrow strip, which the wind has a value of 10 to 11 Beaufort reached. With this development, meteorological great resemblance to the sharp structure of the storm field at the storm depression of 1953, the storm reached its high point field on the southern North Sea proper. This field stretched almost to the coast of Zeeland and Holland, but moved in the course of Thursday, January 12 through the strait to Northwest France. At the same time the intensity of the storm field quickly. The northeastern direction was the water up to our coast a favorable aspect. In contrast, the effects of the southern part of the English east coast, where the violent storm in some areas right on the shore was, much worse. Around noon on January 12 began decreasing wind along the coast to be noticeable, almost everywhere the wind was again decreased to 8 Beaufort.[6]

11 January deepening depression moved southeast across Britain...etc[7]

The last time that Kings Lynn was flooded on its own was on January 11, 1978 when a slow-moving low pressure system was located to the southeast of a major anticyclone, creating a very strong pressure gradient and northeasterly winds on its northern side.[8]

Type 3, Southern North Sea: When an ETC storm moves slowly across the southern North Sea, it may become compressed by an anticyclone over Norway developing tightened isobars to the north of the low pressure centre, These can create strong onshore north-easterly winds. A surge of this type was associated with the January 12th 1978 storm, that caused localised flooding in northern Norfolk.[9]

surge is driven off the northeast side of a slow moving deep cyclone in the southern North Sea when isobars become concentrated owing to the presence of an anticyclone to the northwest of Scotland. Strong pressure gradients drive onshore winds directly onto the coasts of eastern England (like a classic ‘nor'easter’ along the coast of New England). A storm of this character was that of 12 January 1978.[10]

Warnings and preparedness[edit]

Fire brigade strike. Herne Bay Deal-


winds reached force 9 (75 kmph) with gusts up to 130kmph. [1][11]

The highest GUSTS noted included 74 knots (137 km/h) at Gorleston (nr. Yarmouth / Norfolk) and 70 knots (130 km/h) at Kew (London).- Outer Trial Bank or earlier trial? Waves recorded in the event of 11/12 January 1978, the third winter of observation, when winds were from the north, were far in excess of the previous maximum (Hs ~ 2 m) and resulted in the total failure of Panels 3 and 4 (Figure 7) (see Table 2, survey of 9.3.78). Panel 5, the permanent riprap, suffered very little damage. This was a very rare combination of wave attack and high tide: the tide level exceeded the calamitous 1953 storm surge in fact. Rare combination of wave attack and high tide, with winds from the north with a long fetch.[12]

Storm surge[edit]

Since 1953, there have been other large surges in the North Sea. Among them one, on 12 January 1978, caused extensive flooding and damage along the east coast of England from Humberside to Kent. London came close to disaster, escaping flooding by only 0.5 m, and the enormous steel and rubber floodgates designed to protect the major London docks were closed for the first time since their completion in 1972.[4] Higher than 1953 surge in some places, although caused much less damage.[13]

The storm of 11 January 1978 also caused considerable damage on parts of the east coast of England, including Lincolnshire, the Wash and East Anglia, but except in isolated places, was less severe than the 1953 event (higher surge at Kings Lynn than 1953 flood).[14]

The last time that Kings Lynn was flooded on its own was on January 11, 1978 when a slow-moving low pressure system was located to the southeast of a major anticyclone, creating a very strong pressure gradient and northeasterly winds on its northern side.

Humberside and Lincolnshire[edit]

Boston Floodmap 1978.[15]

The Wash to Thames[edit]


In Kent the Isle of Sheppey -Extensive damage on the Isle of Sheppey and Shell Ness Hamlet with around 400 ha flooded to a depth of 1.5m[14] Serious disruption in Sheerness, flooding Medway road area.[14][16][17] Cavour Rd[18] Granville Rd and Rose St, Sheerness Times Guardian newsprint was 3 feet deep, Short Street, Railway Rd and High Street

Sheppey cut off from the mainland by flood and snow.[19]

In the Swale district of Kent In January 1978, the tidal defences along the western marshes (Barksore, Chetney and Horsham) were overtopped, and the defences north of Faversham. In addition the tidal defences around the Isle of Harty were breached/failed resulting in flooding around the Isle (although again, the Isle itself mostly escaped the flood). The defences were breached/failed east of The Lilies (NE of Sittingbourne) with flooding occurring along Conyer Creek. Flooding also occurred further up Faversham Creek, but this was considered to be fluvial (rivers) in nature. No residential or business property is indicated as being flooded.[20]

In the 1978 storm there was considerable damage at the Seaview Caravan and Chalet Park, Swalecliffe which had been developed by this time. This was due to overtopping rather than any breaching of the defences. 1978 1 in 20 years frequency storm, (*in Kent)[21]

Damage from overtopping of flood defences at Pegwell Bay, between Ramsgate and Sandwich in Kent.[22] flood to Northwest and Southeast of Sandwich.[23]

Families were evacuated by boat from Deal, Kent.[24]

Coastal flooding continued around the Kent coast into the English Channel with water coming over the top of sea defences at St Mary's Bay, Kent on Romney Marsh.-

Coastal flooding at Littlestone Golf Club, St Mary's Bay, Kent

so that the 1953 surge now looks quite puny compared with the 1978 surge. from

Since 1953, there have been other large surges in the North Sea. Among them one, on 12 January 1978, caused extensive flooding and damage along the east coast of England from Humberside to Kent. London came close to disaster, escaping flooding by only 0.5 m, and the enormous steel and rubber floodgates designed to protect the major London docks were closed for the first time since their completion in 1972.Concern over rising sea levels, and the potential catastrophe if London were to be flooded, led the Government to build the Thames Flood Barrier. Based at Woolwich and finished in 1982, it is the world's second largest movable flood barrier.

East Coast of England pier damages[edit]

Cleethorpes Pier saw 150 disabled people and pensioners stranded in the town's pier,[25] which withstood the waves largely without significant damage.

Skegness On 11th January 1978, a severe storm washed away two large sections of the pier and left the theatre isolated at the seaward end. Plans to link the two sections by monorail, and to build a new 1200 seat theatre and a 250 foot tower all fell through later that year when an application for financial assistance was rejected.

Hunstanton On 11th January 1978, a storm destroyed most of the pier and a small section at the end was removed by the council some weeks later. The shoreward end amusement arcade survived, along with one set of piles, to remind people of what had arguably been East Anglia's finest pier. The iron legs of Hunstanton pier were found later washed up 8km to the south of the pier.[1]

Southwold Southwold Pier damaged[1]

Herne Bay Pier On 11th January 1978, storms destroyed the main neck, leaving only a short section intact. The pier-head still remains isolated out at sea.

he jetty closed in 1976 on safety grounds, and was virtually destroyed by a storm on 11th January 1978 that isolated the lifeboat station. Attempts to demolish the remains were unsuccessful and part of the pier head survives to this day.

Margate Jetty (to distinguish from stone harbour walls) pier, flickr link of pier/jetty destruction and burning The RAF air sea rescue Wessex helicopter from Manston, landed some of the lifeboat crew onto the the station which was isolated by the damage to the pier. After checks for damage to the ramp and that the bottom was clear the lifeboat was taken round to Ramsgate.-


total 18 seamen feared dead.[citation needed]

Wider storm impacts[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

High winds damaged the roof of the Grimsby telephone exchange leaving services in disarray.[25] One of earliest sites of domestic occupation in Kings Lynn, 30 Kings Street gable end blown in.[32] Yelling hunts/camb Holy Cross church, east wall of chancel collapse in gale.[33] 30-40cm of snow accumulated in parts of NE England.[34]


Just before midnight on Wednesday January 11, 1978 the first calls came into the fire service. in Calais. widespread minor damage from wind to properties. Along the coast there was damage to beach huts which lay broken across the beach.[35]

La niege et les avalanches de janvier 1978 dans les Alpes Françaises. heavy snowfall to the Alps[5]


Switzerland San Bernardino tunnel blocked by snowfall


Blizzards in Northern Spain San Sebastian and Pamplona deep snow.[29]


British Insurance Association estimated damage at £20 million (1978) $42 million (1978).[2] London narrowly escaped flooding which would have caused an estimated £1 billion (equivalent to $5,264,888,809 in 2016) (1978) $2.1 billion 1978 USD.[2] first time the new barriers to the royal docks used.[citation needed] Probably one of the last storms to threaten the capital before the Thames Barrier, which began construction in 1974 was largely completed by 1982.[citation needed]

Residents of Cleethorpes are still calling for the clean up of an estimated 1200 tons of debris created from this storm from the destruction of the former sea defences from the North beach in the town.[36]

estimated that about 30 hectares of mixed horticultural crops were affected by floodwater in the Wisbech area, nursery stock valued at about £15,000 has been lost from one holding.-

For example it was estimated that 30,000m3 of material was moved at the Scott Head when the dunes were cut back by 20m during the 1978 storm surge -

European Commission decided to offer assistance to UK France Belgium 18th January Flood relief fund of £650,000 (1978)[37][38] £629,926 to England and Wales and #314,963 to Scotland.[39]

2013 announced that the Cleethorpes North Promenade defences would be upgraded by the Environment Agency.- in conjunction with improvement of protection for Grimsby Docks.-

damage in Wisbech is in the neighbourhood of £3 million. Flood defences were originally built along the sides of the River Nene in Wisbech during the early to mid 1980s following the 1978 flood event and are formed of steel sheet piles, reinforced concrete and brick construction. These defences provide a standard of protection against the 0.5% (1 in 200) AEP tidal flood event for both banks of the river.[40] flooding occurred in Wisbech in 1978 as the discharge of surface water was impeded by high tides. The initial cause of the flooding was overtopping of the flood defences alongside the River Nene.[40]

Wells next the sea major flood defence works started in 1983, including brick walls and sliding flood gate.

During the storm surge and subsequent flooding of 1978, the Lincolnshire coastal defences were again heavily damaged and it was obvious that better defences were needed. Between 1984 and 1997, 70% of the defences between Mablethorpe and Skegness were upgraded with a wider range of concrete structures:[41]

At Wells-next-the-sea rebuilding in 1978-9 strengthened the bank, and in 1982 this line of defence was completed by the building of flood-gates across the west end of the quay for protection should the quay again be flooded. The total cost of the flood protection work at Wells between 1978 and 1982 was £1.75 million.[42]

1978 flooding appeal for assistance, from Salvation Army in Suffolk, which later became the Suffolk Emergency Unit.-

damage in Whitstable and Herne Bay estimated at £1 million

Flood insurance premiums still affected in Kings Lynn area due to the surge and flood of 1978, negotiation during the renewal of statement of principles.

The fourth aspect of the 1953 flood was the increase in the coastal research effort following the flood. After 1953 the Proudman Laboratory at Liverpool University developed the use of approximate statistical methods for the east coast of England and their continuing research led to the world’s first storm-surge prediction scheme based on a numerical model being set up in 1978 and which has been upgraded ever since (Jones, 1999). Other areas of coastal research that commenced included long-term sea-level change (Jones, 1999).-,_effects_and_aftermaths_of_coastal_flooding_of_England_in_1953_and_France_in_2010.pdf


Surges of comparable magnitude to this and 1953 are not infrequent in the North Sea , 15 are listed between 1883 and 1979.[1] Since 1976, no coastal flood disaster from the North Sea has claimed lives on land.[43]

Fatality associated with January 11/12, 1978 surge. One fatality on land from coastal flooding at Wisbech last deaths in the UK from coastal flooding([44] Total storm fatalities listed as 27,[2]"Killed by storm surge" reported at 20 (which likely includes 17 mariners lost and coastal flooding victim, but may not include French mariner lost in Dieppe).[3] which might be the flooding and marine victims without losses related to strong gales.




Water levels during the storm surges of 1953, 1976, 1978, 1983, 1993, 2006 and 2013 (metres O.D.)[1]
Location 1953 evening tide 1976 evening tide 1978 predicted evening tide 1978 observed evening tide 1983 February [46] 1993 January/February 1993 2006 November 1 2013 December 5
Wick - - 3.86 3.92 - - - -
North Shields 3.32 3.43 2.81 3.52 - - - -
Hull - - - - - - - 5.80
Barton on Humber - - - 5.15 - - - -
South Ferriby 4.79 5.30 4.40 5.30 - - - -
Immingham 4.50 4.50 3.71 4.67 - - - -
Grimsby - 4.35 3.40 4.50 - - - -
Boygrift - 4.30 3.2 4.50 - - - -
Boston Dock 5.25 5.24 4.30 5.50 - - - -
Boston Grand Sluice 5.40 5.22 - 5.63 - - - -
Fosdyke ca. 5.40 5.18 4.30 5.90 - - - -
Wisbech ca. 5.10 4.99 4.30 5.60 - - - -
King's Lynn 5.65 4.99 4.37 5.92 - - - -
Wells 5.13 4.46 3.10 4.91 - - - -
Great Yarmouth 3.28 2.69 1.10 2.19 2.59 - 2.52 -
Haddiscoe - - - 1.76 1.70 1.58 1.74 -
Southwold 3.50 2.50 1.40 2.00 - - - -
Aldeburgh 3.78 2.83 1.40 2.45 - - - -


Subsequent weather[edit]

scotland storm 5 fatalities jan 30th

See also[edit]

External Links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Steers, J. A. (1979). "The Storm Surge of 11 January 1978 on the East Coast of England". The Geographical Journal. 145 (2): 192–205. Retrieved 19 October 2012.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  2. ^ a b c d "Storms thrash Britain causing 27 fatalities". The Star-Phoenix. 13 january 1978. Retrieved 21 October 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ a b Kelman, Ilan (2003). "UK drownings" (PDF). CFS Press. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Case Study - Floods". Met Office. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Haudecoeur, B. (1979). "La neige et les avalanches de janvier 1978 dans les Alpes Françaises". Revue de Géographie Alpine (in French). 67 (67-1): 113–123. Retrieved 6 February 2013.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  6. ^ Blumenthal, K. P. (1978). Stormvloed van 12 Januari 1978 (in Dutch). Rijkswaterstaat. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "Monthly Weather Report" (PDF). 95 (1). 1978. Retrieved 14 February 2013.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  8. ^ "1607 Bristol Channel Floods: 400-Year Retrospective" (PDF). Risk Management Solutions, Inc. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  9. ^ Muir-Wood, R., "Employing Catastrophe Loss Modelling to Price and Manage European Flood Risk." (PDF), Proceedings of the EuroConference on Global Change and Catastrophe Risk Management: Flood Risks in Europe, IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria 6–9 June 1999., retrieved 16 May 2013 
  10. ^ Muir-Wood, Robert (2005). "Catastrophe loss modelling of storm-surge flood risk in eastern England". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 363 (1831): 1407–1422. Retrieved 28 March 2013.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  11. ^ Wagner, A. James (1978). "Weather and Circulation of January 1978". Monthly Weather Review. 106 (4): 579–585. Retrieved 21 October 2012.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  12. ^ Pitt, J. D. (1982). "Prototype Tests on Riprap under Random Wave Attack". Coastal Engineering, Part III: Coastal Structures and Related Problems: 1820–1836. Retrieved 6 February 2013.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  13. ^ "PhD Dissertation: Coastal Settlements at Risk". Ilan Kelman. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  14. ^ a b c "Coastal Flood Risk: thinking for tomorrow, acting today" (PDF). Association of British Insurers. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  15. ^ "Development at Former Jewson's Yard, Tattershall Road, Boston Flood Risk Assessment" (PDF). Environment Agency. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  16. ^ "1978 Floods, Medway Rd". Sheerness Heritage Centre. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  17. ^ "1978 Floods". Sheerness Heritage Centre. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  18. ^ "Flooding 1978 Cavour Rd". Sheerness Heritage Centre. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  19. ^ Lewis, James (2009). "Housing, Flooding and Risk Ecology: Thames Estuary South-Shoreland and North Kent" (PDF). Journal of Architectural and Planning Research. 26. Retrieved 3 September 2013.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  20. ^ "Topic Paper 3: The Natural Environment" (PDF). Swale Borough Council. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  21. ^ "Swalecliffe to Hampton, Flood and Coastal Erosion Strategy Plan" (PDF). Canterbury City Council. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  22. ^ "Pegwell Bay Flood Defence Scheme" (PDF). Unknown. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  23. ^ "Historical Flood Events" (PDF). Dover District Council. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  24. ^ "Kent flooding evacuees". Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  25. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference Grimsby was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  26. ^ a b c d "Storms wreak havoc". The Times (60209). London. 13 January 1978. col C, p. 1. 
  27. ^ "Three die after worst snow of winter". The Times (60215). London. 20 January 1978. col D,E, p. 1. 
  28. ^ "Caister Lifeboat". Caister Lifeboat. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  29. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference Youngstown was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  30. ^ "Sunken Dredger at Dieppe". Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  31. ^ "24 Dead Or Missing, 3 Ships Lost As Snow, Rain, Wind Strike Britain". Toledo Blade. 13 January 1978. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  32. ^ "28-32 King Street". The King's Lynn Preservation Trust. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  33. ^ "Holy Cross, Yelling". Papworth Team Churches. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  34. ^ "Severe Weather in the North East of England 1901-2008". Ferryhill Weather Station. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  35. ^ "Les chalets bousculés lors de la terrible tempête de janvier 1978". La Voix Du Nord (in French). 25 August 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  36. ^ "'Forgotten beach' has trouble with rubble". Grimsby Telegraph. 29 April 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  37. ^ £650,000 flood relief £650,000 flood relief Check |chapter-url= value (help) |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. February 14, 1978. col. 148–149. 
  38. ^ |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. February 20, 1978. col. 462–462. 
  39. ^ |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. March 10, 1978. col. 813W–813W. 
  40. ^ a b "Wisbech Level 2 SFRA". Fenland District Council. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  41. ^ "Flood Defences after the Great Flood". Lincolnshire County Council. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  42. ^ "Extracts from town guide". Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  43. ^ "Coastal Flood Risk and Trends for the future in the North Sea Region" (PDF). Safecoast. Retrieved 25 August 2012. 
  44. ^ Mayes, Julian (2003). Regional Climates of the British Isles. Routledge. p. 127. Retrieved 22 April 2013.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  45. ^ "Cleethorpes railway severed by floods 1976 and 1978". Dave's Railpics of Lincolnshire and Heritage Steam Railways. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  46. ^ "Partnership of Norfolk district councils strategic flood risk assessment" (PDF). South Norfolk Council. Retrieved 5 January 2013.