Severe flash flooding in Boscastle, UK

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A case of severe flooding in the Cornish village of Boscastle.

Date & Time
16 August 2004 00:00 UTC
Satellites
Meteosat-8

More information and detailed analysis of the feature can be found in the In Depth section.

 

In Depth

by Gordon Bridge and Jochen Kerkmann (EUMETSAT)

Jump to images

On 16 August the United Kingdom was under the influence on an unstable southwesterly airflow (see surface analysis, GIF, 20 KB, source: Met Office) and by midday, heavy downpours of rain, associated with thunderstorms had developed across south-west England. These showers tended to form themselves in bands which were generally aligned with the south-westerly wind. This banding of the large thunderstorm clouds resulted in some areas receiving long periods of heavy rainfall whilst other areas received very little.

Such a situation arose over the north coast of Cornwall where the convergence of wind coming off the sea with the wind blowing over the land, where there was also some regions of higher ground, created a long line of increased instability, generally parallel to, and slightly inland from the coast, and resulting in several hours of localised heavy rain in the vicinity of Boscastle (see location of Boscastle, GIF, 5 KB).

It would appear that the local topography around Boscastle helped to exacerbate this tendency for flash flooding as two local rivers, converging into one by the time they reach the town, rapidly swelled during the period of heavy rainfall and poured very large amounts of water and debris into the town, carrying vehicles along in the flow and seriously damaging many of the historic buildings (see picture of Boscastle, JPG, 219 KB). Fortunately, as a result of very effective rescue services, involving the use of helicopters to winch people to safety, there was no loss of human life on this occasion.

Environment Agency rainfall information for two relatively local sites showed that in a period from around midday to 5:30 pm local time, between 150 and 200 mm of rain had fallen onto the region, the higher figure deemed to be an occurrence of around once in 200 years. It is also worthwhile recalling that a rather similar flash flood situation occurred exactly 50 years ago in this region of south west England, when a slow moving large thunderstorm system produced persistent rainfall, rapidly swelling the local river, which then rushed, together with much debris, through the small town of Lynmouth, in North Devon, around 100 km to the northeast of Boscastle.

 

Meteosat-8 Images

Met-8, 16 August, 13:00 UTC
Channel 12 (HRV)
Full Resolution (185 KB)
Animation 12:00–16:00 UTC (GIF, 1 MB)
Met-8, 16 August, 15:00 UTC
Channel 12 (HRV)
Full Resolution (185 KB)

See also:

Severe storm over Hamburg (9 June 2004)
Flash flood in the Gard Department, France (8–9 September 2002)
Flash flood in Tuscany, Italy (19 June 1996)

Met-8, 16 August, 13:00 UTC
Channel 09 (IR10.8, colour enhanced)
Full Resolution (64 KB)
Colour Bar (4 KB)
Animation 12:00–16:00 UTC (GIF, 891 KB)
Large Scale View (black/white, 279 KB)
Met-8, 16 August, 15:00 UTC
Channel 09 (IR10.8, colour enhanced)
Full Resolution (69 KB)
Colour Bar (4 KB)
Large Scale View (black/white, 283 KB)

Met-8, 16 August, 13:00 UTC
RGB Composite VIS0.8, IR3.9r, IR10.8
Full Resolution (54 KB)
Large Scale View (402 KB)
Met-8, 16 August, 15:00 UTC
RGB Composite VIS0.8, IR3.9r, IR10.8
Full Resolution (60 KB)
Large Scale View (397 KB)

 

 

 
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