Weather took agencies by surprise
AN unexpected combination of weather events is being blamed today for communities along the Suffolk coast not receiving a flood warning.Environment Agency chiefs are holding top-level meetings to discuss this week's higher-than-expected tides to see what lessons can be learned and to look at whether warning procedures need updating.
AN unexpected combination of weather events is being blamed today for communities along the Suffolk coast not receiving a flood warning.
Environment Agency chiefs are holding top-level meetings to discuss this week's higher-than-expected tides to see what lessons can be learned and to look at whether warning procedures need updating.
Floodgates were left open at Felixstowe because the agency only issued a Flood Watch and not a Flood Warning.
Seafront gardens were flooded, beach huts smashed, the south seafront proposed homes land was flooded, and the prom damaged.
At Southwold, expensive beach huts were ripped from their foundations, and the Dunwich-Minsmere shingle bank suffered an 800 metre breach that flooded freshwater reed beds with saltwater, killing fish which rare bitterns feed on.
Had the waves been much higher the damage would have been much worse. For some it rekindled memories of the horrific 1953 floods when people were not warned – though then communications systems did not compare with today's.
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A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said the extra high tide had been produced by an anticipated high tide being whipped up by strong winds and an unexpected surge in the North Sea.
But she stressed that the highest point of the tide on Sunday night-Monday morning only just hit Flood Warning height.
The prediction was a tide 0.86 metres above normal, but it turned out to be 1.32 metres higher – nearly two feet more.
"It only just reached Flood Warning height and that was for 30 to 40 minutes before the tide started to go out again," said the spokeswoman.
"We normally like to give information six hours beforehand and by that stage with the tide about to turn it was too late to give the Flood Warning and bring people in to send out faxes and messages, the alert would have passed.
"It was not expected that the tide would reach flood warning height. There was stronger than expected winds and an unpredicted surge."
Flood warnings were given for the Broads, where winds were keeping water in the rivers with an incoming tide.
The warning system is based on tide information analysed by the Environment Agency's experts and weather information from the Met Office. Even though worst case situation is assessed, forecasting is not an exact science.
"We warn to the best of our abilities on the information we have. We will be looking at what happened to see what can be learned," she added.
Clearing up operations are still taking place. Machines were brought in to sweep sand and shingle off Felixstowe prom, while council teams worked with a digger and by hand to free floodgates so they can be closed next time in an emergency.