Archive for the ‘Natural Disasters and Hazards’ Tag

Parish website publishes a section on flood history   Leave a comment

The recently created website of the Gloucestershire parish of Apperley and Deerhurst features a page on the 1947 and 2007 floods, both of which strongly affected Deerhurst village.

Among a collection of photographs from 1947, the website states:

Residents of Deerhurst were used to the River Severn flooding, but the high flood levels of March 1947 took everyone by surprise.  Many people had to be rescued from their houses by boat. […]

Following the floods of 1947, Deerhurst village had built earth and stank defences around the village to the height of the 1947 floods. […]

In 2007, following a torrential rainfall resulting in unprecedented flooding in Gloucestershire, these defences were over-topped for a short while and the houses were again flooded.  The Environment Agency, who had assumed the former STWA duties, spent well over £0.5 million upgrading and expanding the defences in 2007 to 2009, to the extent that they are now about two feet higher than the 2007 flood level.

This account makes flooding part of the ‘public’ history of the parish. It thereby goes beyond the taboo of openly talking about flood histories, for instance due to anxieties regarding the real estate market or the insurance industry.

However, the short text tells a very particular version of the story that – without contradicting any of the accounts from other villagers – leaves out a lot of information that seems important to others. For instance, it mentions the funding from the Environment Agency for the construction of the improved flood defences, but does not mention the ingenious efforts of the villagers to plan the defences and secure this funding.

The Floodline – potential and limits   1 comment

Floodline is a service provided by the Environment Agency to inform residents about their flood risk, and to warn them about incipient floods. Recently, a rather dramatic commercial was released to draw attention to this service:

Earlier Floodline commercials are a bit less dramatic, and more funny, like this one…

… or this one:

The Floodline certainly provides valuable service. But, judging from the experiences of Gloucestershire floodplain residents, it is not the ultimate answer to all their flood-related problems. Many have had numerous false alarms in the past, being woken up by automated calls in the middle of the night. Some of them were very distressed by the calls; others had enough local knowledge to see that they were not about to flood by looking into their back garden or onto the river. Still others remember receiving a call from the service when they were already flooded, somewhat late for a ‘warning’. This has made many residents rather cynical concerning the Floodline.

Nevertheless, the service is being improved continually, and so are the models and scales the warnings are based on. Alongside this, perhaps an awareness is growing that such large-scale schemes work best when integrated with local memories and knowledge, rather than set apart from them. Furthermore, no one should have to rely on the Floodline alone, but also talk to neighbours, the local flood warden, and other people with flood experience.

The Floodline can be an expedient tool – if used properly and not at the expense of keeping an eye on our dry and wet environments.