Every flood event is unique and has varying effects on the different towns and villages that experience it. There are often misunderstandings surrounding flooding and how it can affect you, so it is important to consider every possible outcome, and understand that you could be affected in unexpected ways.
“I’ve lived here for 20 years and it’s never flooded”
Just because an area hasn’t flooded in recent time this doesn’t mean that it will never flood.
For example, when Cockermouth flooded in 2005 the previous flood event was in 1966. Also, Henley-on-Thames was devastated by flooding in 2014, even though the previous flood event was in 1947.
“I live on a hill so I won’t flood”
Properties on a hill can still suffer flooding from surface water runoff, sewage pipes, groundwater, or even a burst water pipe. Also, when water is running down a hill it will find the easiest path to follow which may end up being through your property.
You should also be aware that floodwater in surrounding areas may leave your property isolated, making you unable to leave or enter your property safely until the flooding has subsided.
“That river will never be high enough to flood me”
Even though you may never have seen the river reach levels high enough to flood you, this doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
The river level at Ribchester in Lancashire is typically between 0.15m and 3.9m, but the highest recorded level is 5.91m after the December 2015 floods. In Carlisle, the typical river level is 0.63m-3.45m but the highest recorded is 7.91m in December 2015.
Carlisle Civic Centre, December 2015
“Flooding only happens in winter”
Flash flooding can be severe in summer, especially when the ground is dry and hard. The hard ground is unable to absorb water, which increases run off and contributes to surface water flooding.
Coverack in Cornwall was hit by flash flooding in July 2017, affecting around 50 properties. Localised thunderstorms followed by sudden, heavy rainfall caused rapid runoff into the village, inundating drains and becks with water and resulting in surface water flooding.
Boscastle in Cornwall flooded in August 2004 when very heavy rain storms occurred close to the village. Two rivers burst their banks causing two billion litres of water to run down the valley straight into the village, sweeping cars to sea and badly damaging buildings, leaving millions of pounds worth of damage.
“If I acknowledge my property is in a flood risk area my insurance premiums will rise”
Insurance companies are fully aware of properties in flood risk areas as they can access the Environment Agency flood risk maps like anyone else, and most of them also record their own data on surface water flooding. By acknowledging your risk and making suitable preparations, such as by installing flood resilience measures to your property, you will not only be better prepared and reduce the risk of damage, but it may also lead to reduced insurance premiums in the future.
Residential properties within a flood risk area are eligible for the Flood Re scheme which offers affordable insurance to homeowners.
“We’re safe because a town nearby floods but we didn’t flood here”
Neighbouring villages or towns may be situated in different catchments, meaning that flooding events to each area can be caused by water from different rivers and watercourses. This could result in a town nearby flooding, but yours not being affected.
An example is Clitheroe and Whalley in Lancashire which are located only a few miles apart, however are actually situated on entirely different catchments. The town of Clitheroe sits next to the River Ribble and lies in the Ribble catchment, whilst Whalley is next to the River Calder in the Calder catchment.
In December 2015, Whalley was badly flooded and many people in Clitheroe believe that because they weren’t affected when there was such a bad flood event nearby, then they won’t be affected in the future.
However this is not the case as both areas can flood at the same time if rainfall is more localised and affects both catchments, or it could affect just one catchment if the source of the flooding is from rainfall higher in the catchment.
The best ways to be prepared are to ensure that you understand your flood risk and sign up to flood alerts and warnings if possible, become as flood resilient as you can, and have a flood plan. Even if you think that flooding is unlikely to affect you, you can never be too prepared.
For an overview of some flooding misconceptions, download our infographic here.