Clearing up after the floods. Click the thumbnail for a larger image.
I am indebted to Ron Taylor for correcting my original caption for the above image. It was apparently taken by Arthur Bensley, who lived on Pier Road in Gorleston, and shows Gorleston rather than King's Lynn as I originally thought.
This page ARCHIVED - August 2008
2003 saw the 50th anniversary of the East Coast Floods.
Several local radio stations were amongst the organisations and councils who had special programmes or events, or exhibitions, or services to mark the forthcoming 50th anniversary of the terrible East Coast floods of 1953.
November 2007 saw a storm surge cause damage along the Norfolk coast from Blakeney round to Great Yarmouth. This has been a busy day with lots of visitors...
Memorial in Snettisham Market Square. Picture by Mrs. P. Click to enlarge the thumbnail.
I visited the exhibition on the 1st of February, trekking through the snow that had meant an extra day off work the day before - hurrah! There were around 100 people there already, including local MP Henry Bellingham. I passed a copy of the website pages to David Bocking: a local resident who was featured in the local newspaper supplement. There were some interesting images of the flood damage from Snettisham, Heacham and Hunstanton from Norfolk County Council and also local residents. There was an interesting supplement from the Peterborough Advertiser. The medals awarded to local residents were on display, and there was a representative from the Environment Agency there, as well as the EDP.
Top of memorial in Snettisham Market Square. Click to enlarge the thumbnail.
A copy of the EDP from Monday February 2nd 1953 was included in the Saturday the 4th of January 2003 edition, with a further handout called 'After the Flood' on the Sunday, which featured a picture of the floodwaters in Snettisham. There were a series of facsimile editions and handouts for several weeks. The Lynn News requested information from people who remembered the events. They published a supplement on the anniversary itself. It was one of the few papers available in the West Norfolk area as most of the rest were stuck on the M11, along with a couple of thousand stranded motorists.
Why were the floods so devastating ?
One of the main reasons was that there was no equivalent of the Environment Agency, just a number of local river boards, which couldn't coordinate easily with each other. The forecasting was also less precise.
Will it happen again ?
Storm surges seem as likely to occur as ever.
The other issue is that of rising sea levels, which makes the water deeper around the East Anglian coast. There will be an increasing storminess to the climate as well. Andrew Watkinson of UEA has said that there will be a greater frequency of storm surge events. The Environment Agency already spends £15-20 million per year on sea defences in East Anglia. Andy Baxendale has said that without another £5 million extra per year there will be another flood event.
The EDP also offers a unique bone china commemorative plate which "depicts local scenes in sepia of the devastating floods" for only £10.99.
A book has also been published, which is available in local shops in hardback for £12.99
I also read some information in Paul Gogarty's book 'The Coast Road' which featured the findings of a report into what would happen if a storm surge of similar size was to hit Britain again. It concluded that many coastal defences would fail.
There are a number of websites which provide some useful information on the events of the night, and the reasons for the problem.
It features an hour by hour run up to the night of the floods, and a contemporary weather map. This is a useful synoptic chart.
Storm surges are a problem associated with hurricanes. Many people consider the strong winds to be the main feature of such a storm, but the associated rise in sea level and heavy rainfall are responsible for most of the deaths associated with hurricanes.
There were also 3 articles on the BBC Website: FLOOD RISK REMAINS, RETURN OF REIS LEMING and HORROR OF THE FLOODS UNDIMMED.
VIDEO AVAILABLE FROM KING'S LYNN LIBRARY
There are a number of videos available: public libraries in Norfolk will probably have a copy of 'FLOOD' which includes a series of archive clips of flooding in East Anglia. There have been several inundations over the years, the most recent being in 1978. The porch of St. Margaret's church has a series of plaques which mark the levels that the floodwaters have reached over the years.
There were a series of programmes on various channels in the run up to the anniversary.
Area of damage: over 1000 miles of coastline damaged
Sea defences and sea walls breached in over 1000 places
Over 30 000 people were evacuated from their homes
307 people were killed (over 1800 across in the Netherlands, around Zeeland)
Over 20 000 homes were flooded
Power stations, gasworks, sewage works and water supplies were disrupted. Saltwater contaminated the water supply in Hunstanton.
100 miles of the road network was temporarily impassable, and 200 miles of railway network was out of action
Over 40 000 head of livestock were lost
Over 150 000 acres of farmland were inundated, and were not usable for several years
Jobs were affected as over 200 industrial premises were damaged
The damage was estimated at £50 million (1953 prices)
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