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Monday, January 28, 2013

Flood of 1953.

East Anglian Daily Times just published this 60 years old story: "Flood of 1953: Freak of nature unleashed a night of horror on Felixstowe." It's not a pleasant story to read for a Monday morning. But it's the story of the "freak of nature" that did happened in real life. It's been 60 long years but "it is still difficult to grasp the enormity and the suddenness of the disaster" as the opening paragraph of the article states.

Being far away from the other side of the globe at the time, I have never heard of this case.  EADT tells this historical case with today's perspective:

Modern flood warning systems did not exist and there was no way the emergency alert could be sounded.
Today there would be phone calls, TV and radio warnings, phone messages, internet warnings, social networking. The Environment Agency has direct contact with thousands of people living in flood zones.
On January 31, 1953, it was in most places a policeman on a bike – cycling round communities to knock on doors or shout a warning.
 
Those officers did reach some people in the nick of time, but many were sleeping in their beds when the floodwaters swept into their homes and streets. 
The depression spotted off Iceland had started deepening at an alarming rate on January 30. 
It was still hundreds of miles north-west of the Hebrides but Scotland was already feeling its gale force winds. 
As the hours wore on, the met men watched the depression move east and then swing south into the North Sea. 
With winds gusting up to 140mph, 15 billion cubic feet of water was sucked from the Atlantic into the North Sea to be driven south as a “sea surge”, a ten feet wall of water ahead of the incoming tide – and set for a head-on collision with the tide from the other direction. 
With nowhere else to go in the narrow funnel of the North Sea, the enormous wall of water came thundering ashore. 
It was unseen, unheard and unexpected – millions of gallons of water pouring inland in just a few hours.

We read this case also with some mixed feelings.  Were it happens today would the results be better than 60 years ago?  Hopefully we should be better prepared than before.  Mostly, however, hope it will never happen again. "The flood of 1953" let it be the unseen, unheard and unexpected happening stayed an historical term ever and always!

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