Looking back on the tidal surge of 1953

The 1953 surge caused devastation.
The 1953 surge caused devastation. Photo: East Anglian Film Archive

On the 1st January 1953, a tidal surge swept across our region's coast from North Norfolk to Essex.

It washed away homes and destroyed lives.

Sea defences were breached in 1,200 places.
Sea defences were breached in 1,200 places. Credit: East Anglian Film Archive

At least 307 people across the UK died when the storm surge and high tide brought flooding on a scale never seen before and, up until now, never seen since.

The floods devastated parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
The floods devastated parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Credit: East Anglian Film Archive

In the East, the flood had a huge impact:

  • 32,000 people were evacuated from the flooded areas
  • 160,000 acres of land were inundated with sea water and not usable for several years
  • The damage was estimated at £1.2 billion at today's prices
  • The storm surge exceeded 5.6 metres or 18.4 ft above normal sea level
Many homes were damaged or destroyed by the flood.
Many homes were damaged or destroyed by the flood. Credit: East Anglian Film Archive

Improved flood defences mean that the impact shouldn't be as severe this time around, but people living in coastal areas should still keep an eye on the Environment Agency website.

High tides hit the coast.
High tides hit the coast. Credit: East Anglian Film Archive

Read more: Flood warnings across the East