Floods at Sidford, Sidmouth 7 July 2012.
Links are given to a selection of the best youtube videos and photographs of floods in Sidmouth.
There are also some links to general weather sites + explanations of the very wet summer of 2012.
|6am, 7 July 2012, after I had
been woken by the roaring of the river and the noise of the rain.
Water was just lapping into my rear garden.
The white dots are camera flash reflected off raindrops!
It was so dark the camera insisted on flash.
|6am, view of Packhorse Bridge
A telephone warning was received from the Environment Agency Floodline system at 6.57am.
I was outside at the time taking photographs and getting soaked, so the system simply left a message......and didn't call back later.
|View from across the river. At
this time the main road was still easily passable because no water had flooded onto it
from England's Close.
This is about the level it reached in August 1997, during the Sidmouth International Folk Festival - the year it rained all week and flood water cascaded through the craft tent on the Arena showground.
Those were the days!
|The sitting out area and steps of a neighbouring house are submerged.|
|8am, further rain has swollen
the river and about a third of my rear garden was now underwater.
The turbulence is being caused by a submerged scaffold pole designed to keep cattle from straying under the bridge. This broke free but was restrained (amazingly) by a piece of orange baler twine - just visible on the left of the photo.
|The cover in the driveway -
this drains straight into the river and so water 'backs up'.
It serves as a useful river level gauge.
By about 10am water had overtopped this drain cover - and nearly reached the level of the garage floor.
The garage floor is sloped, so that if water enters from the driveway it will only progress so far - thus limiting any damage - in theory. This was to be tested more fully on 24 November 2012.......
|10am, and the pavement was
still passable with care. However, vehicles entering the flooded section of the A3052 at
high speed threw up water that dashed against front doors.
This greatly annoyed the residents - who placed trailers and vans to slow the progress of these vehicles.
|Packhorse Close is useful in itself as it is very gently sloping - so it acts as quite a sensitive water level gauge. The amount of water here is determined by the extent of overtopping of the river north of the bridge.|
|This is an ideal way to wreck
many modern cars. Water gets sucked into the low level air intake of the engine, causing
up to £5000 worth of damage.
To cross through flood water correctly, drive SLOWLY and in a low gear, slipping the clutch to keep up engine revs, and thus keep water from entering the exhaust pipe.
|A bemused foreign tourist.|
|10.30am and flood water was by
now well established from England's Close, the river having overtopped its banks to the
north of the bridge.
The river overtopped its banks on two separate occasions during the morning- both in response to sudden increases in rainfall.
|A brave dog walker - and a happy dog?|
|Water reached the end of
Packhorse Close affecting a few properties in a minor way.
Fortunately it stopped raining so hard.
In 1968 many properties in Sidford were flooded - but these bungalows may date from the early 1970s?
Subsequent work on the river and including construction of weirs tamed it to some extent.
|A sensitive water level gauge
at the end of my front driveway.
If the water level had risen to cover all of the pavement (to the concrete join) it would then be at the level of my airbricks - but it would have to rise much further to overwhelm my flood defences.
Curiously, whilst the river is at the bottom of my rear garden the major risk arises at the front - because the level at the rear is limited by the amount of water that can get through the bridge arches.
Surplus river water then flows down England's Close and even in this 'minor' flood the level was much higher at the front than at the rear.
Measurements showed that the river level at the rear was 350mm below that shown here, representing in effect the head of water across the bridge.
|At the height of the flood, between 10am and 11am, both pavements were underwater.|
|And still some drivers seemed to think they had urgent business that could not wait.|
|My next door neighbour - who
was totally unconcerned.
They have lived by the River Sid for over 30 years - but only for a year next door to me.
|I did mow and tidy my lawns a
few days before this happened.
The rear garden was now up to 12" (300mm) underwater.
A lot of debris (mainly twigs) was deposited at the 'tide line'.
|A risk in some properties is
hydraulic overload of the sewers - which can lead to foul water flooding out of WC pans
Fortunately my sewers are not affected by this problem (which is caused by inadequate design) and the tidemark shows the highest level attained.
Usefully, this sewer access cover is in my garden - it serves a rainfall gauge but it is not an accurate river level gauge.
|And 15 years ago I made some
special tools to remove the cover - these are kept by my front door - always ready for
The tools are made from two lengths of 22mm copper pipe and bits of old studding.
Simply insert, rotate 90 degrees and lift.
|Defences were hastily put into place to deter people from driving too fast and throwing flood water into dwellings.|
|The River Sid in a rage - a
view from the bridge at about 11.30 on 7 July 2012.
My rear garden was now fully underwater. Incredibly, the orange baler twine was still restraining the submerged scaffold pole!
I had to negotiate flooded pavements in order to get onto the bridge to take these last few photos.
Curiously the area of land between the hedge and the bridge had the grass deflected towards the bridge - indicating a 'reverse flow' water current over this small land area.
|Not suitable for swimming.|
|An swirling eddy in the A3052
at its junction with Packhorse Close.
This drain is at the lowest level of the road. However it is almost useless against the volume of floodwater that came down England's Close.
By noon the rain had eased and the water levels were receding almost as fast as they had risen.
But if heavy rain had continued throughout the day there would have been serious problems.
This photo was selected for inclusion in the MSN portfolio of 2012 flood photos - link below.
a few videos are available on youtube: the first two are very short amateur clips showing the area round my home. The others are professional quality!
- showing the photo above - and many of Dorset, which was affected to a much greater
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.483805948312037.134732.192146220811346&type=3 - a selection of very good photos of the Byes in Sidmouth.
It is remarkable that the following day the Byes had almost completely recovered. The flood water had subsided, twigs were strewn around in a few locations, there were a few patches of mud, but you had to search for any substantial damage. Two small trees were lost.
Extreme weather is nothing new: this summary for the southwest is from the Met Office website:
The south west peninsula is prone to rare, but very heavy rainfall events lasting from about 5 to 15 hours. The famous storm which devastated Lynmouth in north Devon on 15 August 1952 was one of these, when one place on Exmoor had 228 mm in 12 hours. Other similar events are the 200 mm at Otterham near Boscastle in Cornwall on 16 August 2004, 203 mm at Camelford in Cornwall on 8 June 1957 and 243 mm in 13 hours at Bruton in Somerset in June 1917. The highest recorded daily rainfall total in UK was at Martinstown in Dorset when 279 mm was recorded on 18 July 1955.
|Aftermath photo 1: rear garden.
The water level would have to have been four courses of bricks higher before it reached the airbricks - but these are protected to an additional 800mm depth by purpose made ventilation tubes.
|Aftermath photo 2:
the tide line to the north of my home.
The caravan is sited on high ground!.
|Aftermath photo 3:
Packhorse Close, Sidford.
I later spent over an hour shovelling mud from the road.
The following day (see photo below) it was washed and vacuumed by the local council.
|Aftermath photo 4:
junction with A3052 showing the site of the swirling eddy (see a previous photo).
|Aftermath photo 5: my rear
Pity about all my bedding plants....
|Soon the river water level will fall as fast as it rose - and once again you will be able to paddle across.|
|Where angels fear to tread?|
|Just let the grass grow through again!|
|Substantial quantities of mud
were deposited on a few roads where fast flowing water suddenly spread out over a large
On the Sunday, the day after the floods, East Devon District Council sent up to four cleaning vehicles to affected roads. These included this large suction tanker fitted with high pressure water jet equipment.
The entire road was power brushed, washed and vacuumed.
It was the first warm and sunny day for what seemed like months.
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