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If you think flooding only happens in the winter, think again

Since my worst flood back in the winter of 2000, I’ve lost count of how many times people have said to me, ‘Well if people chose to live by a river, what do they expect?’ Or they tell me that they live on a hill and it would take a ‘Noah’s Ark event’ before they flooded.

Around half of the floods we have in the UK are from surface water flooding. Surface water flooding occurs when intense rainfall overwhelms drainage systems. According to the Environment Agency, over 3 million people are at risk of surface water flooding in England alone. In my book, it’s far more than that – and the worst bit is that people don’t know they are at risk, as there is no visible river, sea, or stream to warn them of that fact.

Almost anyone can be flooded from surface water. Yes, even those who smugly tell me that they live on a hill – I’ve been in many wet homes on hills! I recently moved and live at the top of a steep hill, my new neighbour said to me, ‘’one day, I’ll tell you about how during a heavy rainstorm, water came cascading down my drive and we were millimetres away from flooding indoors.” It certainly gave me flood for thought and I’ve now made plans, should that situation happen again!

When we think about floods, we generally think Winter. Let’s think again. A quick 5 minutes on Google pulled up an alarming number of recent devastating summer floods. The Summer of 2007 is one that many of us remember, when 55,000 homes (including mine) flooded, and some people were displaced for over 2 years.  In addition, we mustn’t forget that the Boscastle floods happened during August of 2004, or the floods of June and July 2012 and the Birmingham floods of 2018 and more recently, the awful floods in London of a few weeks back, to name but a few. So why is this happening?

Like it or not, our world is warming up. Global warming or climate change is not all about droughts or fires, it’s about flooding too. We are seeing longer, hotter summers when the ground becomes extremely hard. As the earth warms up, the clouds can hold about 7% more moisture. So when it rains, it rains hard. We hear terms like ‘A months rain fell in just an hour’. If that rain falls on hard ground, it’s like falling onto concrete, as it can’t soak away, and the drains become overwhelmed. On the receiving end of all that lot, are our homes and businesses! That is why I passionately believe that we should all be flood aware and should plan in advance as to what we would do should a flood happen anywhere and anytime.

As part of the Ox-Cam Pathfinder Project, Landmark and Flood Re have kindly sponsored the update of the Know Your Flood Risk Homeowners Guide to Property Flood Resilience. This guide is a brilliant resource and contains lots of advice on how to reduce flood risk at a property level.

A personal reflection by Mary Dhonau.

Mary is a specialist independent flood resilience consultant working to raise local flood awareness by advising and assisting on flood mitigation and resilience.