Extreme UK Weather Case Study


  • When: December 2013 – February 2014
  • Where: The Somerset Levels in south-west England
  • What: Extensive flooding
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Causes of the Flood

  • It was the wettest January since records began in 1910. A succession of depressions driven across the Atlantic Ocean brought a period of wet weather lasting several weeks. About 350mm of rain fell in January and February, about 100mm above average.
  • High tides and storm surges swept water up the rivers from the Bristol Channel. This prevented fresh water reaching the sea and it spilled over the river banks.
  • Rivers had not been dredged for at least 20 years, and had become clogged with sediment.
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Social Impacts

  • Over 600 houses flooded
  • 16 farms evacuated
  • Residents evacuated to temporary accommodation for several months
  • Villages such as Moorland and Muchelney cut off. This affected people’s daily lives, e.g. by attending school, shopping, etc.
  • Many people had power supplies cut off.
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Economic Impacts

  • Somerset County Council estimated the cost of the flood damage to be more than £10 million.
  • Over 14000 ha of agricultural land underwater for 3-4 weeks.
  • Over 1000 livestock evacuated  
  • Local roads cut off by floods
  • Bristol to Taunton railway line closed at Bridgewater.
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Environmental Impacts

  • A huge amount of debris had to be cleared
  • Stagnant water that had collected for months had to be reoxygenated before being pumped back into the rivers.
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Long-Term Responses

  • A £20 million Flood Action Plan has been launched by Somerset County Council who will work together with agencies such as the Environment Agency to reduce the risk of future flooding.
  • In March 2014,8km of the Rivers Tone and Parratt were dredged to increase the capacity of the river channel.
  • Road levels have been raised in places to maintain communications and enable businesses to continue during future flood events.
  • Vulnerable communities will have flood defences.
  • Riverbanks are being raised and strengthened and more pumping stations will be built.
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Immediate Responses

  • As the floodwater spread out over the Somerset levels, homeowners coped as best as they could. Villagers cut off by the floods used boats to go shopping or attend school. Local community groups and volunteers gave invaluable support.
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