EDITOR'S CHAIR: We got away lightly - but what happens next time?

Panoramic view from Pillmawr Road in Caerleon of the flooding of the river Usk. (3238683)

Panoramic view from Pillmawr Road in Caerleon of the flooding of the river Usk. (3238683)

First published in News

LAST week's storm surges and high tides in Newport, Monmouthshire and the surrounding areas put many families and businesses on the brink of disaster.

Thankfully, flood defences in the main did their job and few people had the truly horrible experience of seeing their homes flood.

I've seen at first hand the true misery that flooding can bring.

From 2007 to 2011, I was editor of the daily Worcester News. Within a couple of months of taking the job, the city and surrounding areas like Evesham and Tewkesbury suffered their worst summer floods for more than a century.

Hundreds of people had their homes flooded, businesses were wrecked, and sporting organisations like Worcester's racecourse and county cricket ground lost millions of pounds in potential revenue.

Some who were forced out of their homes were unable to return for more than a year.

So the exceptionally high tides on the Usk and the Wye last week were small beer in comparison.

That is not to belittle the experiences of those people who faced the trauma of evacuation last Thursday night and Friday morning.

But there is no doubt we got away lightly this time.

But the real question is what happens next time and are we properly prepared for it?

Local authorities and emergency services, in general, did a great job last week as they prepared for a worst-case scenario.

I think there are some public bodies that still do not understand the power of social media in emergency situations, but that is a minor quibble.

The fear for the future is whether the public sector will have the staffing levels and funding to deal with the problems they faced last week in the future.

Government cuts - with more to come this year, according to George Osborne - mean that in the future there will be fewer people taking charge in emergencies like we had last week.

Whether you believe in climate change or just the cyclical nature of weather, there is no doubt we are in a period of conditions more severe than we have seen for many decades.

That may well mean heavier rainfall, major storms and severe snowfall for years to come.

To be fair to central government, there has been substantial investment in flood defences since 2007.

But more is still needed and, despite the squeeze on public sector costs, more money needs to be spent on ensuring the nation is better prepared for the more extreme weather we are experiencing.

There have been few casualties of the floods this time around.

It goes without saying that lives should never be put at risk because of cost-cutting.

For most people, last week's high tides were a minor inconvenience and little more than a visitor attraction.

But that will not always be the case and all involved public bodies, as well as the Welsh and UK governments, need to ensure the appropriate funding is in place to cope with flooding in the future.

Comments (2)

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11:23am Thu 9 Jan 14

DavidMclean says...

Oddly enough, flooding is going to become more of a problem in Wales than it is in England.

The issue is; the urban drainage systems - which were built a long, long time ago - are now well over capacity because of the amount of hard surfacing (roads, patios, drives etc) in our growing towns and cities. Water run-off (the proper term) is filling the drainage system, which is why we see localised patches of flooding in town centres, even if there's no river nearby.

To compound this, the amount of green space is being eaten into by roads, houses etc, and green spaces are what naturally suck up water.

The recent floods were tidal, which is a different issue, but was compounded by rivers swollen by the amount of heavy rain and run-off from urban areas. The Tewkesbury flooding of 2007 - 2011 was very much as a result of what I described above.

As a result of increased flooding, England now has building regulations in place which state that all hard landscaping - drives, patios etc - need to consider water run-off using permeable paving etc. It's a small step, but is definitely effective.

However, the regs don't cover Wales, so our drains will be put under increasing pressure as the number of new roads, patios, drives etc increases.
Oddly enough, flooding is going to become more of a problem in Wales than it is in England. The issue is; the urban drainage systems - which were built a long, long time ago - are now well over capacity because of the amount of hard surfacing (roads, patios, drives etc) in our growing towns and cities. Water run-off (the proper term) is filling the drainage system, which is why we see localised patches of flooding in town centres, even if there's no river nearby. To compound this, the amount of green space is being eaten into by roads, houses etc, and green spaces are what naturally suck up water. The recent floods were tidal, which is a different issue, but was compounded by rivers swollen by the amount of heavy rain and run-off from urban areas. The Tewkesbury flooding of 2007 - 2011 was very much as a result of what I described above. As a result of increased flooding, England now has building regulations in place which state that all hard landscaping - drives, patios etc - need to consider water run-off using permeable paving etc. It's a small step, but is definitely effective. However, the regs don't cover Wales, so our drains will be put under increasing pressure as the number of new roads, patios, drives etc increases. DavidMclean
  • Score: 0

12:55pm Thu 9 Jan 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

"EDITOR'S CHAIR: We got away lightly - but what happens next time?"

We would certainly not be amused;)
"EDITOR'S CHAIR: We got away lightly - but what happens next time?" We would certainly not be amused;) Katie Re-Registered
  • Score: 1

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