Britain experienced another dramatic weather crisis over the festive season. Storm Frank followed the damage Storms Desmond and Eva had wreaked. Frank is the sixth storm in the past two months, bringing severe gales of up to 80 mph and unprecedented rainfall in south and north-west England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Between 40 mm and 85 mm of rain fell in the 24 hours between 29-30 December, this on top of villages and cities that three weeks ago have already been 3 feet underwater.
Aircraft were in double holding patterns in winds of up to 53 knots. Motorways were closed, trains were disrupted, power cuts were common and maximum chaos prevailed as thousands had to evacuate their flooded homes. In the north alone, 6,700 homes were flooded. 15,000 military personnel were deployed to assist emergency services as torrential rain poured down, river banks overflowed, flood defences and bridges were overwhelmed or collapsed and high seas with monster waves trashed coastlines and rigs in the UK sector of the North Sea. One kayaker has been found dead in the River Findhorn and one oil rig worker has died on the Chinese Oilfields Services Limited rig off the coast of Norway. Half the other employees were winched off by helicopter.
Prime Minister David Cameron visited suffering areas, offering support and sympathy to distraught homeowners and praising the swift and efficient response of the emergency services and the military. PM Cameron denied complaints that less is spent on flood defences in the north of England than in the south.
The total level of support pledged by the government for this winter’s floods comes to over £100 million. Grants worth up to £20,000 are available to farmers who were affected by the flooding to help restore damaged agricultural land.
Local authorities and developers will look to improve damage limitation of future homes in vulnerable areas, by using waterproof plaster, solid/stable flooring and electrics positioned higher up the wall. Urbanisation is being scrutinised. Concreting in urban and rural areas is increasing, resulting in surface water having fewer places to go to. Flood investment, management accountability, budget responsibility and advance warning systems are all being re-examined for sufficiency and efficacy.
Analysts predict the cost to insurance companies will exceed £1.5 billion. IHS Global Insight’s Howard Archer said, “It could well shave 0.2-0.25 percentage points off GDP growth in the near term.”
Environment Agency’s deputy chief executive David Rooke said the UK is moving from “known extremes” to “unknown extremes” of weather and the government needs to assess what protections will be needed in the future.