Repeating history: Floods hit Cornwall

Cockermouth floods, 20 November 2009
Cockermouth floods - 20 Nov 2009. Photo: TheNeoplanMan via Flickr

Almost a year to the day after floods devastated Cockermouth, today we see Cornwall facing a similar fate. News reports are showing all-too-familiar scenes of people trapped in their homes and closures to roads and rail cutting off access to Cornwall, because of heavy rains and gale-force winds.

Whatever your age, flooding significantly affects people’s lives. Older people are likely to face particular difficulties during and after floods. For example, floods can prevent people getting access to medicine, care and support which they are reliant on.

And the problems do not retreat with the flood waters. Some residents in Cockermouth were unable to move back into their homes for 6 months. An article in the Guardian shows how people, including the local Age Concern, jumped into action on the day but are still suffering the effects a year later.

The experience of previous flooding should help those agencies involved in the immediate rescue in Cornwall today. In the days to come, however, there are likely to be questions about why flooding still has such a dramatic impact. Some will be looking for more hard measures to protect coastal communities from flood waters, such as better drainage systems or sea defences. There is only so far these measures can go. Concerns about funding are aggravated by the changing patterns of flooding in the UK – the Environment Agency now predicts 1 in 6 households in the UK are at risk of flooding.

Communities will also need to be more resilient, to limit the impact of floods that cannot be prevented. The Environment Agency has plans to give local people more control over their future, by supporting Flood Action Groups. But as an individuals we can also take control. Even if you have lived somewhere for years, you might be at risk of flooding now or in the future so it is worth checking with the Environment Agency to find out whether you are affected. We would also advise people to check they have the right insurance and have a flood plan in place in case of flooding.  If possible, let your family and friends know how they can get in touch with you in case of an emergency. These small measures should at least lessen the blow of a major flood.

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