The floods have changed how I see the world. Whenever it rains you think ‘is it all going to happen again?’
These words from a school student in Hull sum up the fears of thousands of people in Hull and Holderness whose lives were dramatically affected by the summer floods of 2007.
The rainfall in the UK in June and July 2007 that prompted flooding locally in Hull and Holderness was about 20% higher than ever seen before in records that date back to 1879. Two months of rain fell in less than two days! The real fear is that we can all expect to see more extreme weather events like this in the future.
In Hull, roads became rivers, water rose through the floorboards of thousands of homes and drains overflowed onto pavements and into properties. Residents claim drains had not been cleared properly in recent years – adding to the amount of water flowing into unprotected homes. Experts say developments on the flood plains of the Humber and the fashion for paving gardens contributed to the scale of the disaster. The village of Burstwick near Hull was still under water yesterday. From Daily Mail 5th July 2007
According to the Environment Agency, 2.3 million homes and 185,000 businesses are at risk of flooding in England and Wales. This represents property, land and assets in excess of £200 billion. Or more bluntly this equates to homes and public places being threatened by potential flood waters which could cause devastation and destruction on a massive scale.
While there is some debate in the scientific community whether the Hull and Holderness flooding of 2007 was a result of climate change,there is general acceptance that the sea level has been rising at a mean rate of 1.8 mm per year over the last 100 years. It is anticipated that coastal areas globally will be threatened as sea levels rise. Where coastal areas are used for agricultural and industrial purposes, flooding caused by rising sea level could also have a disastrous impact on rural economies and livelihoods.
So what is being done to prepare for the days when rainfall is so heavy that flooding occurs?
Firstly, there are those who argue that we should be able to better predict when these weather events will happen. Meteorologists point to the El Niño events as possible indicators of extreme weather events. More accurate prediction will enable earlier flood-prevention measures to be taken.
However, more practical solutions would seem to be adapting and building new homes to better cope with flooding. The drainage and sewerage system need to be meticulously maintained; investment in pumping stations needs to take place so that flood waters can be quickly taken away from at-risk areas.
The predictive and preventative measures explained above are taking place already. Effective flood defences would also help stem the tide.
However, if the effects of climate change; global warming and melting ice-caps adds to the evolutionary rise of the sea then there may only be one permanant solution to the threats of ever-encroaching flood waters: Move to higher ground!
Hedon and this part of Holderness are areas at significant risk of flooding according to the Environment Agency floodmaps. It is worth exploring the Agency’s web pages to get a thorough understanding of the flood risk in the local area.
Perhaps we just have to get used to the idea of living with floods?
What do you think?
Other information: Beverley & Holderness MP Graham Stuart speech in Parliament 11th July 2007.