Rye area still at risk from flooding says action group

Strand Flood 2
Strand Flood 2

FLOOD risk remain in Rye says local emergency response group REACT.

It was only improved flood defences that saved the town from flooding in early December when a tidal surge caused waters to rise within inches of the top of a flood wall at the Strand.

REACT chairman Anthony Kimber, in a report to Rye Town Council, said: “ The tidal surge which hit the east coast of Britain in early December 2013, was considered the “most serious” for 60 years, as not since the floods of 1953, have we seen sea levels at a height which threatened homes and infrastructure from the Wash to Sandwich.

“Unlike 1953 we are now better prepared and defended against extreme tides and water levels, but flood risks do remain.

With Rye at the confluence of three rivers and under tidal influence, water levels are always of concern, but in recent years, flood defences have been greatly improved with raised and improved river and sea walls, fitted with flood gates on access points.

“Before any forecast of extreme tide above 4.7m, Environment Agency teams close the flood gates and drop the river levels on the Brede and Tillingham to cope with river flow.

“On the night of 5/6 December high tide was forecast for around midnight at a level of 4m, but for an hour afterwards the sea surged to a new high: 5.1 m at the Rye Strand ramp opposite the River haven Hotel.

“At its peak, the water rose about half way up the flood walls/gates at the Strand and apart from some seepage through one or two weak spots, the system held.

“In the Rock Channel, some workshops and garages on the river side of the defences took in water; the basements of the houses at Rock Channel Quay are designed to be part of the river wall and also flooded.

“There were two issues at Rye Harbour, first a flap cover on a drain outlet failed to seal properly allowing water into within a metre or so of houses, secondly the extreme flows washed away part of the coastal path and flooded the Rye Harbour Reserve cottage.

“When the flood defence system works, even under surge conditions, the risk to Rye is managed, but if any part of the infrastructure fails then quickly, the situation can worsen, with homes and businesses threatened.

“High tides are only one aspect of flood risk. After days of heavy rain, groundwater and rivers combine to levels which the river beds cannot contain. Overtopping follows, drains cannot cope and those living and working nearby are then at risk. Therefore the conditions which give the most concern in Rye are when there is a combination of: spring tides with a surge of water on top; strong on-shore winds; persistent heavy rainfall on saturated ground and high river levels. These extreme conditions combine to test all parts of the sea and river defence infrastructure. It highlights the need for regular maintenance of valves, flaps and pumps.”