Shops flooded after storm: more to come?

Weston beachBen Birchall/PA Wire

Shops and restaurants along the prom at Weston-Super-Mare were under inches of water yesterday - after forecasters failed to predict a storm - leaving new sea defences lying useless.

So how could this happen, and with more bad weather expected across the country, what impact would a flood have on your home?
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Flooding

Storms at the beginning of the week brought flooding to businesses along the seafront. Many had previously had their own flood defence precautions - using things like sandbags to keep the water out on stormy nights. However, they had stopped using them after a new flood defence system was introduced.

Unfortunately, as forecasters hadn't predicted the storms on Tuesday morning, there were no weather warnings in place, so North Somerset Council did not close the flood gates. It meant that when the tide was high, gusting winds blew the water over the sea wall, and precipitated the floods. In future the council has said it will use more localised information when it comes to assessing the risk of flooding.
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What about you?

For the businesses in question, the flooding was a major inconvenience, and a huge disappointment. However, it's nothing particularly new to them.

But with high winds and rain expected to continue across the country - and 25 flood warnings in place - there's a real risk that flooding will come to households that have never experienced it before.

According to the Committee on Climate Change, 4.1m properties are at some flood risk while 330,000 are at 'significant' risk, an increase of 12% over the past decade.

What would flooding mean for you?

According to Lloyds TSB claims data, flood damage causes an average of £17,000 worth of damage per incident, so if you think you are at risk of flooding, it recommends a number of steps.
  • Place sandbags outside doors, airbricks, windows and any other holes to reduce the amount of water entering your property
  • Turn off the mains supplies of water, gas and electricity
  • Unplug all electrical items, and store them upstairs or as high as possible
  • Disconnect pipes to washing machine and dishwashers to avoid damage if appliances move during the flood
  • Move as much furniture as possible upstairs, weigh down large items that can't be lifted with sandbags so they don't move and cause damage
  • Empty contents of cupboards and drawers, and store upstairs or as high as possible
  • Move rugs and curtains upstairs or to higher ground
  • Keep your home insurer's policy details and telephone numbers to hand in case you need to make a claim
  • Remember to move sentimental items such as photograph albums to a safe place, as they cannot be replaced.
If your home has been flooded, it suggests
  • Ensure mains supplies of water, electricity and gas have been checked for damage by a qualified engineer before reconnecting
  • Dry out appliances that have been affected by water and ensure a qualified electrician or Gas Safe registered engineer inspects them before use
  • Open doors and windows to ventilate and dry out the property. Ensure the home has completely dried before attempting redecorating work
  • Contact your insurer and report any damage caused to buildings and/or contents as soon as possible
  • Take photographs of damaged items as it may help your insurer to settle a claim
  • Keep any ruined property as insurers may want to inspect it.

Risk for us all

However, even if you keep damage to a minimum, there's no doubt that once flooded, life becomes more complicated.

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, warns that flooding tends to mean insurance premium price hikes across the board. Given that this summer saw flood insurance claims approaching £200 million, insurers are likely to respond by pushing prices up gradually. He said: "The kind of weather that has been battering Britain recently reflects an increasingly unpredictable pattern that insurers need to take account of when setting their premiums."

If you have a history of flooding personally, it will push your premiums even higher. At the moment, the government and the insurance industry have an agreement, whereby homes at risk from flooding must continue to receive cover (even if their premiums increase), on the grounds that the government promises to improve flood defences. However, with budgets being cut for this kind of work, and the current agreement set to expire in June next year there's a chance that repeated floods could leave you high and dry without cover when we reach the next storm season.

The implications of this are almost too horrible to imagine, with not only a massive risk of huge losses, but also a risk that without insurance your mortgage company will call in your loan. You could then be forced to put the house on the market, at a huge discount because no-one will be able to get a mortgage on the property.

It makes a few shops mopping up seawater seem like small potatoes.

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Shops flooded after storm: more to come?

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