Berkshire homes and businesses continue to be evacuated due to severe flood conditions. Levels of waterflow in the Thames during January of this year were excessive. In fact, these levels were the highest on record for the month of January since 1883. According to statistics from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), the flowage rate of water from the river has now surpassed 275 cubic metres per second over the past month and a half. This figure is almost two times the current record for prolonged excessive flow.
Troops are working diligently to protect homes endangered by current storms throughout southern Britain. They have been joined by Princes William and Harry along with local residents in the major project of building protective sandbag barriers against the rising water levels in Datchet, Berkshire. Datchet residents have been evacuating family members and transporting sandbags via ferryboats. At the present time, fourteen separate and serious flood warnings have been issued in Berkshire and in Surrey.
In the village of Datchet in close proximity to Windsor Castle, homes, shops and other businesses were surrounded by rising water within just a few hours after onset of the flooding. Sandbags delivered by lorries were quickly utilized to help save property and belongings from damage. Many Datchet residents first heard about flooding conditions nearby on the nightly news, but were surprised to find flooding in their own village the next morning. It seemed as though the water had suddenly appeared and engulfed their entire area. Residents and business owners had no time to prepare adequate defences against harm to property resulting in financial losses.
Areas worst affected by the storms and flooding in East Berkshire are located in Old Windsor, Horton, Bisham, Cookham, Datchet and Wraysbury. Local officials are lending support to residents in these locales, and streetcare teams are busy identifying all those in need of assistance.
Owners of riverside homes in Streatley-on-Thames, Berkshire, have now installed pumping equipment in an attempt to prevent future flooding of their houses. Rail travel from the Datchet railway station has been halted due to flooding, and Wraysbury is dealing with the second occurrence of flood-level water since mid-January. Although 30,000 sandbags were distributed to residents, many people were in need of more by Monday morning.
Some property owners in Berkshire awoke to five or more inches of water inside their homes, and some reported blocked plumbing lines and sewage backups affecting inside drains. Weather experts report that shifts in the flow of water on the Thames have actually lowered the current danger of flooding of surrounding area homes far below the harm level caused by the disastrous 1947 flood. Modern protective measures against flooding have also contributed to such lower risk rates.
Prime Minister David Cameron has been touring throughout the flooded regions of southwest England. Although criticism of the country’s Environment Agency is widespread, the Prime Minister stresses that this is no time to change agency officials. Meanwhile, many people living in flood-distressed areas of Berkshire are calling the scene a horror picture.
Most weather experts and government officials agree that it is difficult to point the blame for inefficiencies in flood defence efforts to any specific agency source or governing faction. Although most also agree that budgetary allocations and restrictions do affect such efforts, the primary goal of everyone involved is that of saving people and property from harm.
Benefits of all flood defence plans are periodically evaluated. Expenditures must be offset by value of benefits, and the Treasury requires that for each pound spent, the resulting yield must be no less than eight pounds in gains. Numbers of dwellings and inhabitants at risk or deprived must also be considered. In most instances, urban areas have the highest scoring levels while rural and farm regions rate the lowest. Ultimately, the major problem to be resolved is how much funding should be dedicated to keeping regions most vulnerable to flooding safe and dry, especially if future storms and floods increase in volume and frequency.
According to Prof. Mike Acreman of the CEH, rainfall accumulations this winter have been the highest since 1910, causing exceptionally sharp rises in river flow rates. In addition, the ground is now so heavily saturated with water that any additional accumulations are expected to result in more serious flooding.
Windsor Councillor Colin Rayner has strongly appealed to both police and the Army for local assistance in the evacuation of distressed residents. Many able-bodied area residents are constantly volunteering their help with current rescue efforts. However, much more focused assistance continues to be needed throughout the normally beautiful, active and productive regions of Berkshire in southwest England now battling flood conditions.