Boscastle is in the south west of England as shown on the map to the left. The Boscastle flood occurred on the 16th August 2004 in Boscastle in England. Boscastle is the only natural harbour for 20 miles along the Northern Cornwall Coast. The flood took the people of Boscastle by surprise as the village isn’t usually prone to extreme flooding. The village had never experienced such a flood. The location of the village is within the Valency valley, and the Valency is usually a quiet stream which follows a course from the hills to the valley.
Because the valley was so steep, it accelerated on the hills as it travelled down to the valley floor. This meant that the water fell extremely quickly down the valley sides. Also, the shape of the valley meant that the rainwater from the surrounding area was getting built up into a relatively narrow space descending towards the valley bottom. This caused an increase in run-off speed, which meant that it couldn’t hold enough water to prevent the flooding which occurred.
The entire South-West of the country had been beaten by stormy weather over the days leading up to the flood, and as a result the ground was saturated on the day of the flood. The 16th was a very hot day, with clear skies in the morning and very high temperatures for much of the day. The combination of high temperature and the large quantity of unabsorbed surface water, and also moist winds off the sea and the effects of the local relief caused a great deal of moist, warm air to travel upwards quickly. The storm clouds formed very rapidly and soon Boscastle was overshadowed by a menacing storm cloud.
By early afternoon, the rain had started, and within a few hours, already 5 inches of rain has fallen on Boscastle. When the flow in the valley was met by the water coming down from the moors through the steep valley, the volume of water in such a small space at once caused the Valency to burst its banks & cause the exceptional level of damage in the village. The diagram above shows the amount of rainfall, where the darkest grey areas show where the most rain had fallen. In the space of one hour, about 3. 5 inches of rain had fallen, and this was a very rapid amount of rain in a small scale of time.
In the Valency valley, the walls are very steep, and this caused the water to come down at a higher speed and therefore move quicker to the bottom of the valley. IMPACTS There were many impacts on Boscastle itself, each being significant to the area. It affected the people, the environment and the economy of Boscastle very much. There were both primary and secondary effects on the people, economy and the environment. Impact on the local people living in Boscastle who were affected by the flood The local people of Boscastle were affected very greatly in many ways.
Firstly, people couldn’t get out of buildings because of the floodwater and had to seek refuge on the roofs of the buildings and just wait to be rescued. Because of this they were waiting around to be rescued for a large amount of time. Because of this, it meant that people were of risk of developing hypothermia, or being swept away by the flood waters. The dangers of developing hypothermia, shock and being swept away were very high. An estimated amount of 150 people had to be rescued from rooftops, cars or even trees. Secondly, emergency accommodation had to be set up as people were left homeless for the night.
Nearby hotels and guest houses were packed with people who had arrived in Boscastle and had lost their cars, so they were unable to return to their accommodation elsewhere. Some people’s houses were damaged so they could no longer live there, until the wreckage had been cleaned up. Some houses even were in such states that they couldn’t be lived in again. Helicopters were used to rescue people from being stuck. Some houses had been damaged so badly that a lot of basic everyday necessities such as cooking, washing and cleaning could not be done.
It was a very hard life- people didn’t even have the basics such as electricity or gas and couldn’t cook or do anything in their houses. Some people even were left without their own possessions including money. Also some couldn’t drink the water as the drinking tap water had been affected and people could’ve caught dangerous diseases like cholera. It was the sewage system which had burst and therefore contaminated the drinking water. The floods also damaged businesses which meant the people were not able to work for a while and people were extremely low on money.
Cars were washed away and about 75 cars were destroyed with hundreds being washed away. Fifty cars were damaged beyond repair, fuel from which was spilt into the water and sea. This meant that some people had no means of transport and were unable to travel anywhere. Because of cars, properties and businesses being destroyed, it gave Boscastle a costly expense of insurance to replace and repair them. An increased amount of people had to pay for their car and home insurance in Boscastle. It is estimated that insurance companies paid out about i??15 million.
Many people were also traumatised and stressed out by this incident and this showed in their mental thinking. People were separated from their families and couldn’t contact each other and this cause great worry as families didn’t know if their own relatives were safe or not. Here is an example of a business being destroyed. The image below shows the ruins of the witchcraft museum and local shop. Impacts on the economy of the affected area The economy suffered greatly as some businesses were destroyed and this caused a great loss. Around i??15 million was paid out by insurance companies in order to rebuild peoples businesses and homes.
Even though the money was available, it took a very long time and insurance companies were forced to raise the costs of home region in Boscastle. The image on the right shows the helicopter view of the extreme flooding. Repairs had to be made after the damage. This was extremely costly. Some buildings were beyond repair and the owners had to consider rebuilding it from scratch. The damage not only affected the residents, but also the insurance companies. Now the home insurance in Boscastle is much more costly than before. Boscastle’s main industry was tourism.
A lot of money was earned through this industry but after the flood, the town wasn’t as big in tourism causing a massive loss. Tourist attractions such as the witchcraft museum were lost and many small businesses went out of business as a result of the flood. This affected the town very much as many people had lost their businesses and all that money spent in building it previously. Because of there being no tourism in the area, it meant that there wasn’t much income for the area which was a very big problem for the people who relied on tourism to keep the money coming in.
The town had to pay for both the damage and also the aid and help given. Boscastle had to pay for the costs of operating various rescue systems. Overall there was a tremendous impact in terms of financial effects all being negative. Impacts on the environment of the affected area The impacts on the environment in Boscastle was very bad. Debris and mud was left everywhere and this had to be cleaned up so that people could get past. Roads were blocked off by the floodwater, making any access difficult except from the air.
Even when rescue helicopters arrived, the valley was only big enough for two to operate at any one time. Therefore this took a long time and it was putting lives at risk from the still rising flood waters. Also the floods saturated the ground which meant that no more water could enter the ground and caused water logging of fields. Because of the sewage system breaking, it meant that drinking water could’ve been contaminated. Many drains were blocked because of the heavy rainfall and this meant that the water carried on overflowing.
Because of there being so much water, it water logged the fields which destroyed many crops and vegetation. Property was destroyed by debris such as entire trees and vehicles speeding down the valley at high speed. Buildings were smashed, especially in the main street where the river channel was flowing. The structures of the majority of buildings were badly damaged by the floodwaters. The main sewage system gad burst and damaged much of Boscastle which made Boscastle inaccessible for health and safety reasons. Personal Response I think that the Boscastle floods caused a great deal of damage in a few ways.
The floods cause a great deal of impact on the people, the economical and the environmental aspects of the area as it affects these heavily. The effects lasted a very long time, not weeks but still are affecting the area years later. A majority of people lost a part of them in many ways through their possessions, the businesses and also their homes. Throughout the flood and after the flood there was a huge financial cost. I think that the flood couldn’t have been prevented completely, but certain aspects could have been done in order to help minimize the effects.
Many flood management defences could have been put up such as raised banks and also some emergency drainage ditches put before hand. If these defenses were put up, then maybe the overall damage would be less and also it would give people in the area more time to evacuate. I think that in the place of this flood the emergency services such as the hotels helping and helicopters rescuing people were very helpful. They had the village under control for the rescue and recovery missions and therefore resulted in no deaths.
Although the village had no deaths, the helicopters could only go down by two and therefore it made it harder for the people to get rescued. As Boscastle isn’t really prone to usual flooding, this may have been the reason why such defenses weren’t in place. I think that an emergency plan should have been planned before to help the people in the area. To the left is a diagram which shows how Boscastle isn’t usually prone to flooding and also the defenses already in place. I think the areas which are labeled with the extent of extreme flooding should definitely have a flood defense in place.
What factors or activity within or outside the catchment influence the floods? Boscastle is quite likely to flood in the near future as it is near the coast and some nearby rivers. Due to the heavy rainfall falling in a short period of time the rivers rose beyond their peak. Also because of the shape of the Valency Valley, it will mean that if a flood happens, then water would slope down very quickly. The Valency Valley makes this dangerous as the valley walls are very steep which tells us that less water will absorb into the ground and more water will rush down the valley at a high speed.
This means that the effects of the flood may be much worse. The lower bridge caused problems as it obstructed water causing the water to burst the banks and overflow more. Another factor influencing the floods were that Boscastle is very steep which forced the air to rise and cool creating rain. The floods all were very destructing due to the coastal winds. As the river is long and thin, this makes it more prone to flooding as it will overflow more easily. This diagram on the left shows how flash floods occur. First of all, the heavy rain falls onto the ground. Then because the rain water cannot soak it runs into the river.
The rivers automatically become full and burst into the banks which are how the valleys flood. How could the impacts of floods be changed in the future? The impacts of floods could be changed by using different types of flood defences such as embankments, walls, weirs, sluices and pumping stations. Some may only be brought into operation when a high tide or flood is forecast or in progress, an example of this which has taken place is the Thames Barrier in London. There are also soft defences such as wetlands and saltmarshes, which are places which provide space for floodwater and prevent flooding from happening elsewhere.
At the same time, this method can benefit wildlife by providing greater habitat. Human activity isn’t really responsible in any way for the flood, but the damage caused by the floods can be recognized partially to several human causes. The first of these causes is the lack of any flood control system. If the form of either raised banks around the river channel or emergency drainage ditches to catch overflowed water had been in place, the effects of the flood would’ve been less and would have given people more time to evacuate.
Secondly, the sewer systems in Boscastle were old and had a small capacity which meant that the sudden surge of water broke the system, preventing any controlled drainage from occurring in the village and this meant that the flood water simply took the route overland, causing more damage. Also, structures like bridges were obstructing the course of the river and this increased the spread of the floodwater. Overall if these things were put into place, it would minimize the flooding at the time and also give people more time to evacuate.