News: Flood check warning on March 47 anniversary

On the 60 year anniversary of the 1947 floods - some of the most devastating floods in living memory - the Environment Agency is urging those at risk to take the necessary action to reduce the impact flooding can cause.

People at risk can sign up for free phone or fax flood warnings provided by the Floodline Warnings Direct service.

In March 1947, heavy rain swept across Britain causing major rivers to burst their banks in the south, Midlands, East Anglia and North Yorkshire.

Weeks of frost had left the ground frozen hard meaning rain and meltwater could not soak into it. By the evening of 11 March, 1947, vast areas of southern England were under water. This was followed by storms which raged across the UK causing more flooding and chaos in many parts of the country.

Steve Naylor, from the Environment Agency's flood forecasting unit talks about the impact on the Thames area, which again saw extensive flooding in 2003.

"Although floods on the scale of 1947 are very rare on the Thames, history shows they do happen, and could happen again," he said. "We endeavour to reduce flood risk where we can, however living in the floodplain is never without risk, so it's vital to ensure people take action to protect themselves and ensure that they have done all they can to limit the damage, difficulties and misery flooding can cause."

After 1947, numerous schemes were carried out on rivers and tributaries of all sizes throughout the Thames Region. Such schemes include the River Lee flood relief channel which protects properties in north east London and the Maidenhead, Windsor and Eton flood relief scheme, which includes the Jubilee River, and was built to protect Maidenhead and Windsor from floods as severe as those in 1947. 

A few months after it was opened, it succeeded in protecting more than 1,000 properties in January 2003.  These were the biggest since 1947, causing flooding in Oxford, Reading, and many other towns and villages on the Thames.

However, the most effective way to reduce flood risk is not to build in flood risk areas, and to take the opportunity in any redevelopment to ensure that the potential for flood damage is reduced or eliminated by designing flood resistant buildings.

In recent years the Environment Agency has made strides in defining areas at risk by using recorded flooding information and simulations to produce detailed flood maps.

These maps are a valuable tool in limiting inappropriate development in the floodplain, and are also an important resource for homeowners to check their level of risk online at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood

Steve Naylor added: "We would urge everyone to check whether they are at risk of flooding by looking up their address on our floodmaps."

“If you are at risk there are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself such as signing up to our free Floodline Warnings Direct service which sends automatic flood warnings over the phone.”

“We would also urge you to ensure you have a flood plan in place so you know what needs to be done in the event of a flood. For information and advice, please contact Floodline on 0845 988 1188 or log onto our website."

Back to: News Index