Thursday 23 June 2016

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

For the less observant of you, it's June, but at least in London and the South-East, you could be forgiven for thinking it's Autumn.

Well, not quite, the temperature as I write at 7pm, is 20 degrees Celsius and it's really humid; more like a cooler version what what August used to be like, you know, a week of blazing sun and then a thunderstorm.

I was woken last night by a huge crash of thunder and the storm raged for a few hours. I went to vote and in order to get to my route to work, I had to cross a bridge over a stream and the road over it had flooded. Not a big flood by the standards seen elsewhere to be sure, but locally unusual enough to be noteworthy.

I use the term "bridge", but it's really a box culvert. By that I mean a square/ rectangular shaped concrete tube. This one is about 1.5 metres high and 2.5 metres wide. What is normally a trickling stream was a torrent and the water was higher than the soffit of the culvert (the top underside of the inside of the culvert).

In the photo above, you can see a pipe - this is a utility crossing the stream and it is higher than the soffit of the culvert, but the watrer is lapping around it. The stream level was lower then the road; and the reason for the flood was that the surface water drains couldn't discharge into the stream quickly enough as the wall of flowing water was forcing itself back up the pipes and bubbling out of the gullies and manholes (known as surcharging in the trade).

My journey to work was uneventful other than taking my feet off the pedals to go through a few puddles; although the roads were crawling much more slowly than usual (and they're not normally flowing well in the morning). I got into work and found out about a number of road closures because of flooding and as the day went on, we heard about a few homes being flooded; our drainage engineer and general works crews were out doing what they could, but it was more about checking grilles and culverts were clear than stopping flooding - that cannot be dealt with so easily.

It is hard to be objective about this sort of thing, but the early summer weather has become wetter in recent times and thunderstorms are unusual at this time of year. Are we seeing climate change happening now? Yes, I think so. Do we want to do anything about it? It seems not. 

In my area at least, we will have a flurry of news articles, some will criticise the local authority's response to today's events. The reality is our habit of years of paving over front gardens, getting rid of verges for parking and building on back gardens is starting to bite back in terms of urban drainage and surface water management. But, even with some of the huge floods we have seen, they are soon yesterday's news. We are that frog in the water being brought to the boil.


  1. If only the rain only fell in the districts that were most likely to vote leave... I almost wish I was in England or at least somewhere in Europe like Germany so that I could A, play pranks on a brother who I could get legally drunk, and B, have up to date news.

    The people who don't speak English are for some reason a lot smarter than us. The Japanese created anime and nintendos, the Germans created very nice cars, the Dutch invented high quality water management, the Portuguese treat drug users, the Swedes make their women and men equal, the Russian police only want money to live off of and not to beat up their suspects, and the Quebecois know how to make me laugh without me even knowing their language. Despite being under the sea level, the Dutch keep their land high and dry. That was not being figurative. Sometimes even building new rivers for water control. We have a lot to learn these days.

    1. Cycling in Edmonton; that thing about the selective rain couldn't happen as UKIP would then have some rather tricky explaining to do!

      Ranty; do we want to do anything about it? Of course `we' do. Here, our local culvert is due for `strengthening and refurbishment'---or `structural upgrade', depending on which document is being more honest---paid for with the walking and cycling budget. Because, as the highways department employees would have us believe, its supposed weakness and unkemptness is all that makes `sharing' the carriageway above (narrow footway and no cycleway) with thousands of thundering HGVs per day so unappealing...

      In this case, ironically, the area most at risk of flooding is some [marshy?] scrubland which was formerly procured by MOT for a mooted extension to the nearby terminus on part of Ringway 4 (Northern) which was built.

  2. Nice article. Since the floods depicted here:

    my area councils have done some marvellous work to mitigate the effects of further flooding. Major engineering. Pity they can't do the same with respect to their Cycling Strategy. But basically, shit happens with extreme events of the kind that hit on Thursday morning, and all the good work didn't help much. Reductio ad extremum - a massive seawall was built in Rikuzentakata but the 2011 tsunami managed to breach it ⊙▃⊙:

    Thank your lucky stars, UK. On the other hand, I do think the regular flooding that happens in places like Tewkesbury is the council/government taking the piss. Anyway, for late 20th century floods and few bikes, this is well worth a look too: