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The 10th anniversary of the Autumn 2000 floods

Paul Hudson | 11:58 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

It's almost 10 years to the day since large parts of the UK experienced their worst floods on record. My house by the River Nidd in Knaresborough was one of literally thousands that got flooded during a 3 week period towards the end of October and into the first half of November which culminated in the evacuation of parts of York, as fears grew that the Foss barrier in York would overtop.

In fact the Autumn floods were a culmination of several very wet months, through Spring and Summer. April turned out to be the wettest since 1756 - quickly followed by May, the wettest since 1983.

By June the land was already on a knife edge and with further heavy rain through June, many rivers across Yorkshire were put on flood alert. The River Ouse rose to its highest ever June level, with Todmorden and Hebden Bridge suffering flooding from the River Calder.

The rest of Summer was average from a rainfall point of view, but crucially there were no decent dry spells and the land remained wet.

September and October were wet months, with a very mobile westerly pattern of weather becoming established. Atlantic depressions steamed in, with little more than 24 hours between weather fronts towards the end of October.

The North Atlantic was abnormally warm, adding moisture and energy to weather systems as they crossed the UK.

On the morning of Monday October 30th explosive development saw an area of low pressure deepen to 958mb, producing 2 inches of rain across the Pennines. As it departed through the Humber the coastguard recorded a gust of 99mph, with Hurricane force 12 winds in Sea area Humber.

Such was the rapid drop in pressure, snow and thunder were observed simultaneously over the Yorkshire Dales. An already sodden river catchment could take no more; and many of the regions rivers burst their banks.

Flooding was widespread across the UK, but Stockbridge in Keighley won the dubious accolade of having the highest concentration of flooded houses anywhere in Britain - 325. Houses along the River Don were ruined.

The River Ouse in York reached its highest levels since records began in 1642. And the towns of Malton and Norton, which had only just recovered from flooding in March 1999 were inundated once again.

In the end, September was the wettest since 1981; October the wettest since 1903 and November the wettest since 1970. Autumn was the wettest since 1872, and more rain fell in September, October and November than in any other 3 month period since rainfall records began in 1727.

Climatologically it was calculated that Autumn 2000 was a 1 in a 500 year event, assuming a static climate.


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