More Floods in Cumbria as UK Government Announces £51 Million Support for Flood Victims

Further flooding has struck in the county of Cumbria, northern England, after more heavy rain fell on Wednesday 09 December.

Meanwhile the UK government has announced financial support of £15 million for victims of what is the third major flood to hit the area in 10 years. Flood risk experts say that losses could exceed those of the 2009 Cumbria floods.

More Flooding in Cumbria

A river to overflowed in the village of Glenridding after more heavy rain fell in parts of Cumbria yesterday.

The village had been cut off for several days after flooding triggered by Storm Desmond between 04 and 05 December 2015. Homeowners and businesses had begun the huge clean-up operation when the second round of floods struck.

Steady rain has fallen on already saturated ground, increasing levels of the river. Flood defences were overtopped in two places, according to the BBC.

Cumbrian Police issued a warning for residents to stay indoors. A statement issued in early on 10 December 2015 said:

“Cumbria Police would like to urge the people of Glenridding to stay inside their properties to keep themselves and their families safe.

“Earlier the river water spilled over the banks into the village. The flood water is now starting to slowly recede in Glenridding.

“A multi-agency presence including the Police, Military, Fire Service and Mountain Rescue Team are in the village providing support and assistance to the residents”.

Cumbria Police also said that the Glenridding bridge has been closed and warned that the road network around Cumbria has suffered from large areas of surface water.

Rain and Flood Warnings

The Environment Agency issued a statement last night urging communities in northern England to remain vigilant as recovery from the exceptional floods continues.

There is currently one severe flood warning in place for the River Wyre at St Michaels South, near Catterall in Lancashire, where heavy rainfall overnight has raised river levels and put pressure on the temporary defences. There are also 13 flood warnings and 54 flood alerts for England and Wales. See a map of all flood warnings in England and Wales here.

The flood risk is increased by the fact that ground is already saturated. Maurizio Savina, flood risk expert at RMS, a leading catastrophe risk modelling company, says, “The UK has experienced a very wet November this year, helping to saturate the ground and exacerbate conditions ahead of the weekend’s intense rainfall. In November alone, the Northwest England has had more than double its normal rainfall levels, while southern Scotland and Northern Ireland has received around 147% and 164%, respectively, of their monthly rainfall average”.

Record Rain, Cumbria Floods and Climate Change

Honister Pass in Cumbria recorded 341.4mm of rainfall in the 24-hours on 5 December 2015, beating the previous record of 316.4mm set in November 2009 at Seathwaite, also in Cumbria. Also during a 24-hours on 5 December 2015, 322.6mm of rain was recorded at Thirlmere in Cumbria which also beat the previous record.

A new 48-hour record (from 0900 to 0900 hrs) was also set, when 405mm of rain was recorded at Thirlmere in Cumbria.

So, why did it rain so much in Cumbria between 04 and 06 December 2015? The UK’s Met Office say:

“The weekend’s record rainfall was associated with a persistent, south-westerly flow bringing a ‘river of moisture’ from as far away as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Ocean temperatures in the West Atlantic are currently well above normal and may well have contributed to the very high levels of moisture in the air masses which unleashed rainfall on the Cumbrian fells”.

Five of the six wettest years on record have happened since 2000, according to the Association of British Insurers. The record rain between 05 and 06 December resulted in Cumbria suffering a major for the third time in 10 years. Met Office Chief Scientist suggests there may be a link between climate change and record-breaking winter rainfall.

Professor Dame Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist, said “It’s too early to say definitively whether climate change has made a contribution to the exceptional rainfall. We anticipated a wet, stormy start to winter in our three-month outlooks, associated with the strong El Niño and other factors.

“However, just as with the stormy winter of two years ago, all the evidence from fundamental physics, and our understanding of our weather systems, suggests there may be a link between climate change and record-breaking winter rainfall. Last month, we published a paper showing that for the same weather pattern, an extended period of extreme UK winter rainfall is now seven times more likely than in a world without human emissions of greenhouse gases.”

The Guardian reports that researchers at Oxford University and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) have calculated that climate change had made the flooding event 40% more likely, with the estimate of the increased likelihood ranging between 5% and 80%.

The UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) say that it is “not clear to what extent the recent cluster of floods in the north-west is associated with climate change, natural variability or a combination of both”.

In their Hydrological update of England’s North West floods of 08 December, CEH add that “Much of the research in the UK using very long records points to pronounced variability between decades, leading to ‘flood rich’ and ‘flood poor’ periods driven by the NAO and other factors”.

“We simply don’t yet know whether the clustering of recent floods is due to anthropogenic warming or a result of such variability. It is, therefore, hard to attribute any event or cluster of events to anthropogenic climate change using observational records alone”.

Financial Support for Flood Victims

The UK Government announced on Wednesday 09 December an additional £51 million to support households and businesses affected by the floods in Cumbria and Lancashire.

A government statement says this takes the total support pledged by the government to over £60 million and that it aims to help households and business access support as quickly as possible by providing Local Authorities with over £500 for each household affected; for example, to help with temporary accommodation costs whilst we work to get people back into their homes. Local business will the funding equivalent to £2,500.

The money will also be used for grants of up to £5000 for homeowners to protect their homes against future floods by installing new flood barriers, replace doors and windows with water resistant alternatives, or move electricity sockets up to a safer level, for example.

The financial support will also help Cumbria and Lancashire assess the damage to the local highway network following the events over the weekend, to allow us to understand what additional local transport infrastructure funding could be provided to help repair roads and bridges damaged.

The government say that part of the £51 million will also be used to bring the local flood defences back up to their target conditions, and that there will be an additional £10 million invested through the Environment Agency to repair the flood defences that were damaged over the weekend.

Insurance and Costs of the Floods

In a statement made in parliament on 08 December, the UK Environment secretary said:

“…by Sunday morning over 3,500 properties had flooded across the country with the majority in Cumbria. In Carlisle over 2,000 properties flooded. Over 600 properties flooded in both Kendal and Keswick with over 200 in Appleby. Flooding was also seen in Northumberland with over 60 properties flooded at Hexham”.

Talking to Reuters, Jill Boulton, director of catastrophe risk modellers JBA Risk Management said that “a typical flood claim is about £30,000, but it would not be exceptional to have a £130,000 claim.”

Reuters say that British insurers could have to pay out up to 250 million pounds ($375 million) in claims to owners of homes and businesses.

Initial estimates suggest that damage caused by the recent floods is worse that that of 2009. Maurizio Savina, flood risk expert at RMS said:

“While it is too early to estimate insured losses for this weekend’s flood events, the available information and meteo-hydrological observations suggest that losses could exceed those of the 2009 Cumbria flood events”.

2005 Cumbria Floods

According to the Environment Agency, over 1,900 properties were flooded in and around Carlisle in 2005. Elsewhere in Cumbria, more than 100 properties were flooded in each of Keswick, Cockermouth and Kendal, with more than 50 flooded in Appleby. There was also flooding to Appleby, Eamont Bridge, Penrith, Stockdalewath, Wigton and Blennerhasset in Cumbria.

Floods in Carlisle January 2005. Photo: Environment Agency
Floods in the Warwick Road area of Carlisle January 2005. Photo: Environment Agency
Floods in Carlisle, December 2015
Floods in Carlisle, Cumbria, England, December 2015. Photo: Cumbria Police

2009 Cumbria Floods

Between Wednesday 18 November and Friday 20 November 2009, up to 372mm of rain fell on Cumbria. In the 24 hours ending 00:45 on Friday 20 November, 314mm of rain fell on Seathwaite, setting the record at the time. According to a UK government report, the resulting floods damaged 2,239 properties and left one person dead.

Photos of the Cumbria Floods December 2015

Floods in Cockermouth, Cumbria, December 2015. Photo: Morebyless under Creative Commons
Floods in Cockermouth, Cumbria, December 2015. Photo: Morebyless  under Creative Commons
Carlisle floods December 2015. Credit: John Campbell
Carlisle floods December 2015. Credit: John Campbell
Carlisle floods December 2015. Credit: John Campbell
Carlisle floods December 2015. Credit: John Campbell
Carlisle floods December 2015. Credit: John Campbell
Carlisle floods December 2015. Credit: John Campbell
Carlisle floods December 2015. Credit: John Campbell
Carlisle floods December 2015. Credit: John Campbell