Flooding is not easy to manage - but with more extremes to come we need to get better at it

Tom Clarke

Former Science Editor

  • ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke explains why the UK needs to tackle its flooding problem

Predicting floods isn't an exact science, but the Environment Agency is facing questions about how it handled warnings for villages like Fishlake.

The reasons for the flooding across parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands are pretty straight forward. We've had a lot of rain in recent weeks and then, in some places, nearly a month's worth of rain fell in 24 hours on Thursday.

The result, a combination of flooding from rivers and rising groundwater, combining with surface flooding due to pooling rainfall. It seems in villages like Fishlake, on the outskirts of Doncaster, all three combined at once.

The Met Office issued amber warnings for the rainfall in good time. The Environment Agency too says it issued a flood warning for the river Don on Thursday. However, a severe flood warning for residents in Fishlake didn't come until 00.50 on Saturday morning. By which time most peoples houses were already filling with water.

The village of Fishlake has been deluged by floodwater in recent days. Credit: PA

To add to the anger and confusion among residents, they claim their village flood wardens were told by Environment Agency officials on Friday morning that Fishlake wouldn't flood.

The claims certainly question the effectiveness in this instance of the flood alert system operated by the EA.

However predicting the precise location of where the peak of a river might occur can be almost impossible when, during heavy rainfall, volumes of water are appearing both inside and outside the confines of a river channel, as they around the Don last Friday.

There are bigger questions too - like the impact new defences in Sheffield may have had on the flooding.

Could a flood solution just made a worse flooding problem?

Sheffield 2007: The city was drowned in water, prompting new flood defences. Credit: PA

In the 2007 floods, the centre of Sheffield suffered serious flooding.

The new defences would have passed that water on down the river. Flood engineers know this and do plan for it, but it's possible re-engineering could have contributed to flooding elsewhere.

There are questions too about the amount of money available for preventing flood damage. Successive governments have been criticised for not spending enough.

Climate scientists predict the possibility of wetter winters for the UK -- and certainly more extremes in rainfall. So its more important than ever that whatever lessons each flood teaches us, we learn from them.