Hell and High Water
During the last week, much of Britain has faced storms causing more damage
than the Great Storm of 1987. Force 11 winds have battered the south and
west of the country, whilst persistent heavy rain has caused millions of pounds
of damage through flooding over the last few days. The recent storms were
the fault of a hurricane which developed over the Gulf of Mexico during the
middle of October. At the BS Met Office, we first picked this up when we
were gathering pictures for use at the school Open Evening on the 18th.
This storm has steadily pushed its way north-eastwards up the Gulf Stream,
moving above the north of Scotland but dragging its weather fronts across the
whole of the country. This has been followed by yet another storm,
arriving by the same route, which has added to the extreme flooding which much
of the country has experienced. Flood warnings are in place along the
river Severn and for every river in Yorkshire, but even down here in the south
the River Stour is several feet above its normal level, and some roads are under
two feet of water.
The problems started nearly a week ago when the gale force winds turned into
damaging storms, blowing down trees and fences, and tearing off roofs. The
problem was further added to by heavy rains for the whole of a night.
Since then there have been three more nights of persistent heavy rain.
Many of the country's rivers are still rising, and, with weather forecasters
predicting the situation to get worse before it gets better, many are left
stranded in temporary accommodation while they watch their houses under six feet
of water, being ruined.
In fact, even as I write this now, on Thursday morning, driving rain is
beating at the windows of my room, and more than an inch of rain is predicted
today. So far four people have been killed and seven injured as a result
of the storms and flooding, and many of the injuries were caused by a tornado
which ruined houses in Bognor Regis. Although government funding is
obviously going to be used to compensate those whose property has been irretrievably
damaged, many people are complaining that the government is doing little to
prevent such disasters.
The crisis could not have come at a worse time from the point of view of the
transport network. With some roads six feet deep in water, and many of the
nation's motorways so flooded that visibility is minimal and travelling by car
is a nightmare. Buses, planes and ferries are all of course being affected
by the bad weather. Trains are mostly either not running or hugely
delayed, since the storms have coincided with the week in which Railtrack is
testing the entire railway network for faults.