Preparing for Floods in North Wales

Community Focus Website Example

Community flood plans are being prepared in many areas as local efforts to improve resilience following recent flooding. Barry Griffiths M.Sc., Chief Flood Warden for Kinmel Bay North Wales, and webmaster for the local Community Flood Plan website, outlines a flood risk website initiative in his part of North Wales.

I take this opportunity to thank the LEAKSSuite website for accepting this blog which drifts somewhat from its current water leakage and pressure management focus, although some years ago Allan Lambert, the founder, was involved with flood forecasting in the UK and internationally.

Flooding is a global phenomenon; floods have occurred throughout history and maybe it’s media, climate change or increased population that lead some of us to believe flooding and associated weather patterns have intensified in frequency, amplitude and impact over recent years.  This post attempts to highlight aspects of flooding including resilience and prevention measures and through a link to a Flood Plan website I am writing for our North Wales community we hope to promote community engagement and ownership of THEIR flood risks.

North Wales Floods

In 1990 my family lived through the floods of Towyn North Wales  an event resulting in possibly the largest mass evacuation of civilian population in the UK since WWII. The event was caused by a combination of factors.  At the end of February 1990 we experienced a seasonal high spring tide, enhanced by strong on-shore winds, a tidal surge and low atmospheric pressure. This weather element combination was estimated to be a one in 500 year event and coastal flood defences in the form of a sea wall by the railway at Towyn were breached; a lack of maintenance of the seawall has been cited. As a result of this flood some 2,500 families were evacuated; 50% of flooded properties were uninsured and although nobody died in the flood some 50 subsequent deaths were attributed to the disaster in a deprived area with a higher than average rate of elderly and infirm residents. It took 8 months for our house to become habitable again and a year is not unusual.

This winter season has seen similar conditions to the flood of 1990 on 5 December 2013. A surge driven by similar circumstances to 1990 hit the North Wales coast and flooded properties in Rhyl and its suburbs of Kinmel Bay and Sandy Cove, though on this occasion the numbers of flood victims was much lower.

Sea defences in Towyn created after the 1990 floods are considered to be robust but in other areas sea defences may be less so.  The Natural Resources Wales website has flood area maps showing areas west of the River Clwyd at risk of flood. The general debate of flooding has intensified with areas in the South of England around Berkshire and Somerset being inundated in February 2014 and the Thames barrage is being used more frequently to avoid flood risk in London and coastal floods along the South and West coasts have raised the profile of flooding to a national level so we in North Wales are not isolated examples of rare events.

Creating Resilience

Communities at risk cannot wait for enhanced coastal defences, they need to grasp more immediate means of sustainable resilience and a range of measures are becoming available to make homes and businesses more flood proof and the community flood planning website will increasingly expand on these measures while encouraging the expansion of flood wardens and awareness of flood risk.

Flood Resilience