We’ve all seen news reports of the horrific effects of flooding – and some of us have first-hand experience. As the water level rises, attempts to safeguard our homes are often fruitless, leading to water pouring under doors or into basements.
The after-effects can be disastrous, with furniture, carpets, fixtures and fittings generally being completely ruined. Even if they dry out, they will still have to be replaced much of the time, as they can be left with a pungent smell, especially if foul water has surged into your home. Then comes the hassle of trying to sort out the mess via your insurer to make your home habitable again.
For some regions in the UK, the hassle and inconvenience of dealing with flood damage has been a regular occurrence at times of particularly heavy rainfall.
Whaley Bridge dam
People living in the UK’s most flooded regions suffer the full consequences after heavy rain. These include coastal regions and people living near rivers and floodplains. The most shocking case in recent history occurred at the beginning of August in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire.
The town was evacuated amid fears that the dam surrounding Toddbrook Reservoir was going to burst due to floodwaters. The RAF was drafted in to help the rescue efforts and 400 tonnes of aggregate was brought in to try to divert the water away from residences.
Built in 1838, the dam holds 300 million gallons of water and when concrete panels partially collapsed on one side, residents were urged to vacate their homes immediately. Around 6,000 people evacuated amid fears that further rainfall would cause the dam to burst altogether and destroy everything in its wake.
Although the immediate threat has been alleviated and residents have been allowed to return home, the long-term future of the dam still hangs in the balance.
In the UK, we frequently suffer deluges, which cause water levels to rise rapidly in some areas in a very short time. Drains might flood, which then leads to surface water flooding, with extreme weather conditions causing rivers to burst their banks.
Parts of the UK experienced this in 2015, when Storm Desmond struck, causing a record 34cm of rain to fall on the Cumbria area in just 24 hours. A scientific study claimed it was the worst flooding in the area in 600 years.
Research of the sediment in Bassenthwaite Lake revealed large sediment pieces had been deposited from nearby streams and hills. Thousands of businesses and homes were flooded, leaving an insurance bill of more than £1.3 billion!
Unfortunately, this is not the UK’s only vulnerable spot. The Environment Agency says around 5.9 million properties in England and Wales are at risk of flooding. They are mostly along the coast. In Wales in particular, coastal erosion is cited as worsening the risks.
Tidal flooding, especially in a century when sea levels are rising due to global warming, leads to the gradual destruction of sea defences. This means homes on the edge of the coast can be permanently lost to the sea.
Areas in the UK where this kind of flooding is common include Cornwall, parts of the east coast such as Hull, Peterborough and Great Yarmouth, and the Sussex and Kent coasts.
Riverside locations are at risk during wet weather, as tidal surges can come from the sea. Rivers can also burst their banks due to the rainfall, causing a double whammy. Areas at greater risk include Somerset, where flooding has been a regular occurrence.
Highbridge and Bridgewater are two districts whose ancient names give us a clue about the environmental factors that affect them. Other areas at risk include New Romney, Rochester and Gillingham in Kent, Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, and Peterborough and Holbeach in Cambridgeshire.
Large areas of Lincolnshire are also at risk from rivers bursting their banks, including Boston, Woodhall Spa, Skegness, Sandtoft and Scunthorpe. In Yorkshire, Hull and Knottingley suffer similar problems.
While floodplains can look stunning, they typically drown in heavy rainfall. Agriculture prevails on floodplains which causes greater risks, as often, natural flood protection, such as hedgerows, has been removed. Cumbria is particularly at risk, as is apparent following the Storm Desmond disaster.
Torrential rain, rivers bursting their banks, or flooded drains causes excess surface water known as “flash flooding”. It can affect urban areas, as well as rural, due to the high demand on the drainage system.
Regions at risk from this type of flooding include Buckinghamshire, Merseyside, Wiltshire, Gainsborough, Cleethorpes, Lincoln, Boothby Graffoe, and large parts of Cumbria and Yorkshire.
Wherever you live, the Environment Agency issued a warning in 2018 that flooding across the UK was set to increase in frequency as a result of climate change.
Find out about flooding
If you fear your home’s at risk, find out by checking the online UK flood map, provided by gov.uk and the Environment Agency. Friends of the Earth also provides an interactive flood map.
The gov.uk postcode checker tool provides an indication of the level of risk, according to the property’s zone. Properties in Zone 1 have the lowest risk of sea or river flooding, with a chance of less than one in 1,000, while homes in zone 3a have a high risk, with a one in 100 probability of flooding. Zone 3b is the highest risk and is subject to flood risk management and assessment.
Knowledge is power – you can minimise your own risks by taking action. In wider terms, learn about your area’s flood planning and keep checking the five-day flood risk data on the gov.uk website.
Protect your home
Reduce your personal risks. Put defences in place and ask for professional advice if your home or business is in an area prone to flooding. Check with your insurer to ensure you have the appropriate level of cover.
Preventative measures you can take include installing a sump pump or foundation vents, allowing flood water to pass through your home, rather than settling around it. Sump pumps can be used to pump water out of your basement. You should install one that has battery back-up power in case your electricity goes off.
Make sure your electrical outlets, switches, circuit breakers and sockets are installed at least 1 ft above the expected flood level to minimise risks. Ensure any pipes that enter your home or business have valves preventing flooded sewage water from seeping in. Gate valves, rather than flap valves, are recommended.
Make sure your land slopes away from your home to ensure surface water will drain away to the street gutters, rather than towards your property.
Protect appliances by standing them above flood level, putting them on concrete blocks if necessary – items such as washing machines, tumble dryers, air conditioning units and generators should be raised.
In the worst-case scenario, if flooding occurs, make sure you contact your insurer right away to make a claim. If you need furniture, Furniture Rental can help. Assisting loss adjusters, insurance companies, insurance claims handlers and private individuals, we will provide emergency furniture rental for those suffering flood damage.
We are here for you!