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Lynmouth 1952

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On August 15, 1952 an extremely heavy rain event caused a deadly flood in the village of Lynmouth on the southern coast of England. The first two weeks of August had already been extremely wet in this area, meaning that when the storm arrived the ground was already completely saturated.  A low pressure system in the Atlantic was caught up by the upper air pattern and carried towards England, where it interacted with a cold front to produce many inches of rain in a short period of time. The previous weeks of rainfall combined with the topography of the area created a deadly situation for the town of Lynmouth that cost the lives of 34 people and caused a great deal of property damage.


Lynmouth is situated on the Bristol Channel where the East and West Lyn rivers come together and drain into the channel. It also happens to be surrounded by high ground on pretty much all sides. So this is not the best setup when you have a huge rain event following on the heels of a very wet period. The low pressure system combined with the cold front and passed just south of Plymouth which placed the Lynmouth area in the heaviest rain sector of the storm. It produced approximately 9 inches of rain in a 24 hour period on ground that could not hold any more rain. On the high ground surrounding the town of Lynmouth, this caused flash flooding of the streams and creeks that fed into the E. and W. Lyn rivers. These streams carried an impressive amount of boulders, trees and debris with them downstream. All of this debris quickly blocked the culverts which caused the rising river to run straight through the town. To make matters worse, debris caused a dam to form upstream and when it let go it caused a tsunami-type wall of water to come through the town. Bridges were washed out, numerous buildings were destroyed, cars were swept away, and 34 people were killed in Lynmouth and the surrounding area.


This wasn’t the first or last time this area would flood. The topography makes that area prone to flooding. After the 1952 flood, the layout of the town was altered. There were parts of the town where buildings previously stood that were turned into a memorial and left uninhabited. The river was rerouted to run around the town rather than through it. This occurred in 1952 which was prior to the satellite era. Weather forecasting changed once satellites were able to be used for weather purposes. The meteorological set up that led to this flooding was very interesting, and it wasn’t until years later that a full understanding of what occurred could be achieved. Here is a very interesting and detailed explanation of the science: https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1256/004316502760195894

Click on about then download the pdf.

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