Floods of 1953

In the dead of a winter's night 60 years ago a storm surge pushed down the North Sea bringing devastating floods to the East coast. It came with little warning and more than 300 people were killed in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincolnshire.

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Facts and figures about the Great Flood of 1953

Sixty years ago tonight one of the worst peacetime disasters in Britain was unfolding around the coast of East Anglia. High tides combined with strong winds and a deep area of low pressure in the North Sea caused a storm surge which brought huge waves crashing into coastal communities.

More than three hundred people were killed in Norfolk, Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Essex on the night of 31st January/1st February 1953.

  • 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

Click here for more information on the 1953 floods from the Met Office.

Archive footage of the 1953 floods in Essex

More than a hundred people in Essex died in the devastating North Sea floods of 1953. A storm surge hit the entire East coast on the night of 31st January/1st February.

A commemoration service marking the 60th anniversary is being held at Chelmsford Cathedral with the Princess Royal in attendance.

The East Anglian Film Archive based in Norwich has released archive footage of the aftermath in Canvey Island and Harwich in Essex. Canvey Island saw the greatest loss of life in East Anglia with 58 deaths.

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1953 Floods remembered

The floods devastated parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex
The floods devastated parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex Credit: ITV Anglia

Events will be held around the East today to mark 60 years since floods devastated parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. More than 300 people died in the storm, and 24,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Sea defences were breached in 1200 places due to 100mph gales and 9ft high tides.

24,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the flood
24,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the flood Credit: ITV Anglia

Princess Anne will visit Chelmsford Cathedral this morning for a special remembrance service. The service begins at 11.30am, but is invitation only.

Events will be held across the East to remember the floods
Events will be held across the East to remember the floods Credit: ITV Anglia

How the storm surge of 1953 developed

When the devastating storm surge of 1953 brought the North Sea crashing into coastal towns and villages around the East coast there was little advance warning. More than 300 people lost their lives.

Television was in its infancy and there were no presented weather forecasts that we're familar with today. Most homes didn't have telephones for instance communication and the floods struck in the dead of night.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the 1953 floods, ITV Anglia weatherman Jim Bacon re-constructed weather forecasts for the days ahead of the storm as they may have been presented if modern technology had been available back then.

Sixty years on from the floods

Tomorrow marks the 60th anniversary of one of the darkest stories in this region's history, the great floods which killed more than 300 people in our region and left forty thousand homeless.

On that night in 1953, the forecast gave no clue of what was to come. No-one predicted the storm surge that would cause such horrific devastation.

Claire McGlasson reports.