Over the past few weeks I have been writing about the floods in the North of England and in Wales – yesterday they came much closer to home with Storm Frank.
It all started off with a Yellow Warning of rain for Devon which didn’t even cover the area where I live.
It must be said that the rain map didn’t look too clever – by 11.30am it was raining pretty steadily
So I decided to go out and take a few pictures and videos – this is the centre of Woodbury – a few miles from my house
Note the really brown water – Devon’s soils on the move again.
I then tried to go home – unfortunately I couldn’t get home because the roads were flooded and had been closed by the Police – I tried several different routes – all were closed and some had the inevitable stranded cars in the middle of the water. Eventually I got home – four hours later
This Environment Agency map shows the extent of river flooding south of Exeter – the area shaded red was full to the brim with the brown coloured rain
This is the tiny brook which runs past my house – a very small catchment which had overtopped and flooded within hours
This is the brook from my garden at around 4.15pm
Here is a video of the same scene
I have now discovered that two Anaerobic Digester power plants have recently been built and opened to the east of Exeter – one in 2013 and the other in 2014. That explains now why the land use around here has changed so much in recent years – people are being encouraged to grow maize to feed these power plants. I have written before about maize – see here and here as have many others – see here, here and here. The real problem with maize is that it is harvested in the autumn and the fields are then left bare and compacted until the spring. Any winter rain which falls on such fields especially if they are on slopes (which in Devon many are) quickly runs off with some soil onto the adjacent roads and into the brooks and then flows rapidly towards the Exe Estuary.
I would really urge the Environment Agency, Devon County Council and DEFRA to have a long hard look at this issue. Land use has a major role to play in reducing flooding – it is not all about building flood defence structures – see Tony Juniper’s article on this very topic after the Somerset Floods in 2014 here.
I came across this very interesting tweet from Oliver Dowding, who is an organic farmer and on the Council of the Soil Association.
That is a staggering fact and goes a very long way to explain much of the flooding we see today. With the weather in such turmoil and driven by climate change we are going to see more intense events over the coming months and years like Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank. To make any progress in protecting people from the floods we need to look at how we manage the land in our river catchments as well as building flood defences around our villages, town and cities.