Looking back at UK flood events in 2019

With 2020 well underway, we look back at some of the significant flood events that have impacted communities and infrastructure during 2019. We also consider the developments in flood risk and climate change legislation that have shaped 2019 and will continue to do so in the years to come.

Draft National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England (NFCERM)

“Climate change is the biggest challenge we face. It poses the greatest threat to our economy, environment, health, and way of life. The increased risk of flooding and coastal change that it brings is significant.”

Draft NFCERM strategy, p4

In July 2019 the Environment Agency launched it’s consultation on the draft NFCERM strategy for England. This draft strategy sets out a vision to the year 2100 and sets out three ambitions for the future:

  • Climate resilient places
  • Today’s growth and infrastructure to be resilient in tomorrow’s climate
  • A nation of climate champions, able to adapt to flooding and coastal change through innovation

We have been involved throughout the engagement process for this draft strategy and developed the evidence base that informed the strategy. The full draft strategy can be read here.

The consultation has now closed, the strategy is being revised and it is due for publication in spring 2020.

Flood events 2019 – Storm Gareth

The first three months of 2019 saw a succession of winter storms impact the United Kingdom. Storm Gareth was an intense area of low-pressure named by Met Éireaan which passed over the UK on 12 and 13 March 2019.

Storm Gareth
16 March 2019, the River Conwy, north Wales

It was the latest in a conveyor-belt of storms to pass over the UK during February and March caused by a more southerly and stronger positioning of the Atlantic jet stream. On Saturday 16 March, persistent heavy rain fell on already saturated catchments, causing river levels to rise and burst their banks in northern England and Wales. Some of the worst affected areas were along the rivers Ouse, Swale, Calder, Ure, Severn, Wharfe, Vyrnwy, Nidd, Eden, Aire and Mersey.  In just 24 hours, Capel Curig in Caernarfonshire recorded more than half a month’s worth of rainfall with a total of 136.6mm (BBC, 2019a). Flooding across parts of the rail network impacted rail services in the North West and Yorkshire. (BBC, 2019b).

Flood events 2019 – Lincolnshire and North Wales

Lincolnshire flooding
13 June 2019, railway line near Thorpe Culvert, Lincolnshire

In June 2019 a weather system brought heavy rainfall to parts of England and Wales, triggering a series of weather warnings for persistent rain and thunder from 10 to 13 June 2019. The heavy downpours caused major disruption for road and rail users. In 48 hours, 107.2mm rainfall fell in Holbeach, Lincolnshire, which is almost double the monthly average (53.2mm) (AccuWeather, 2019)

Parts of south London were also hit with heavy rainfall on 10 and 11 June where an amber rainfall warning was in place for areas, affecting Surrey, Kent, Kingston, Merton and Sutton. Further heavy rainfall brought flooding to Lincolnshire, Boston and Skegness on 11 and 12 June. Several schools and Boston Pilgrim Hospital were affected. Heavy rain also brought flooding to areas in north Wales, including Wrexham, Mold, Flintshire and Denbighshire.

Flood events 2019 – Summer flooding

Summertime flooding tends to occur in more localised pockets where the heaviest or most intense rainfall occurs.  Convective weather systems in the summer usually, but not always, deliver shorter duration intense rainfall events which can overload drainage systems and give rise to flooding events during this season.

During the summer of 2019 parts of the UK experienced very wet and thundery weather conditions with Yellow rain warnings in place across parts of the Midlands, north west England, Northern Ireland and south west Scotland at the end of July and beginning of August. In some locations communities and infrastructure were affected by flooding with heavy downpours sparking surface water flooding and travel chaos across Greater Manchester at the end of July. On 30 July 2019 parts of North Yorkshire experienced intense thundery rainfall and localised flooding, including the village of Grinton which can be seen at the top of this blog.

Flood events 2019 – Toddbrook Reservoir emergency

WhaleyBridge, Derbyshire
31 July 2019, Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire

At 14:30 on Thursday 1 August 2019 residents of the town of Whaley Bridge were evacuated from their homes amid serious concerns about the structural integrity of the Toddbrook Reservoir wall. The preceding week had seen a long duration of heavy summer rainfall with repeated thunderstorms tracking over the same locations, which resulted in flooding from rivers, and an additional volume of water reaching the Toddbrook reservoir above Whaley Bridge.

Flood events 2019 – South Yorkshire

Meadowhall Road, Sheffield
7 November 2019, Meadowhall Road, Sheffield

On 7 November 2019 persistent and intense rainfall fell across many districts in the north of England, including Sheffield, Doncaster, Bentley and Fishlake which all experienced severe flooding. In some areas, a month’s worth of rain fell in less than 24 hours (The Guardian, 2019).  The River Don, which flows through Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster, is believed to have reached levels higher than that experienced in the devastating floods of 2007. The event itself saw a month’s worth of rainfall fall within 24 hours in parts of northern England, with a weather station in Sheffield recording its wettest autumn on record with 427.6mm of rain since 1 September 2019 (The Telegraph, 2019).

Want to know more?

Flood Foresight is a globally-scalable operational system providing data on rainfall severity, flood inundation footprints and depth, and flood impacts. Flood Foresight supports operational flood management in the infrastructure, insurance, utilities and civil contingencies sectors, and is designed to be compatible with existing business intelligence and decision support tools. Find out more about our flood forecasting and real time flood monitoring system at www.floodforesight.com.

You can also find more information about flood resilience on our webpages: https://www.jbaconsulting.com/flood-water-management/flood-resilience/


BBC (2019a) Flood warnings remain across UK following downpours. Accessed 19 March 2019.
BBC (2019b) Rail services and roads hit by flooding. Accessed 19 March 2019.
ITV news (2019a) Flooding closes roads in parts of Denbighshire. Accessed 14 June 2019.
The Guardian. 2019. Flooding in Yorkshire – in pictures. Accessed 11 Nov. 2019.
The Telegraph. 2019. Flood-hit areas to escape heavy rain as temperatures drop below freezing following ‘biblical’ downpour.  Accessed 20 November 2019.


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