Photos are thanks to Neal Sanderson, Jemma Greef, Lilian Richardson and William Searle
Evacuation orders were issued to homes right around the Norfolk coast – from Kings Lynn round to Great Yarmouth. In Hunstanton, the Community Centre was toasty warm with welcoming hot drinks ready for those seeking refuge for the duration. Homes along Seagate Road were evacuated and by 5pm refugees were enjoying the comforts of the Community Centre.
Severe weather warnings were all out yet some ignored the warnings and even took unnecessary risks, possibly thinking they had heard such warnings many times before. At the scene was William Searle, Director of Searles Leisure Resort & Searles Seatours (also Chairman of Hunstanton’s Chamber of Trade), expressing his grave concerns: “This is the biggest tidal surge since 1953. Spectators watching from the Waterside bar were putting themselves at risk and they should stay well back.” This message was conveyed on social media to reinforce the official warnings but doubtless was ignored by many. Thankfully, I am not aware of any injury or loss of life at least along the West Norfolk coast.
High Water was 7.45pm on 5 December 2013 with wave overtopping between 7pm – 9.15pm. Before long it was apparent that the sea defences in parts of the Hunstanton seafront had been breached, particularly at the Sea Life Sanctuary and underneath the pier. Sea defences were breached in other locations including Snettisham where the impact of the waves was felt by the Snettisham Sailing Club, and some caravans leaving the landscape ravaged (see pictures). Police reported that tides in Norfolk were higher on some parts of the coast than the truly devastating 1953 floods.
William Searle said: “Searles had received about a foot of water in the plaza area of the resort but damage had been limited.” He went on to say: “Thanks to the power boat ramp being raised and rock armour in the vicinity, Searles was afforded considerable protection from the force of the waves. More money is needed from the Environment Agency to ensure our sea defences are maintained because this threat is always with us on the Norfolk coast. We must not become complacent and risk the disaster seen in the 1953 floods.”
Sadly, Mr Searle commented that looters took the flooding at high tide as an opportunity to raid the Surf shop under Hunstanton pier. Despite this, community spirit has been in abundance and many have come forward in the aftermath with offers of practical support to those in need. If you have a story about the after effects of this wave to raise awareness of how our small businesses are coping under this kind of pressure then please let us know at email@example.com.
In an interview with David Whiteley on BBC Radio Norfolk on 7 December 2013, Mr Searle said: “Hunstanton got away with the biggest tide I have ever seen. I cannot thank the Environment Agency enough for installing the ramp at the power boat club as this did absorb a lot of the force there but a great deal more work needs to be done.” He also expressed appreciation for the rock armour installed along the seafront which gave considerable protection to Searles and explained the value of increasing rock armour to the Northern wall of Hunstanton seafront further. Mr Searle explained the desirability of using more rock armour along the Norfolk coast owing to its permeable properties which allowed it to take the energy out of tidal surges in stormy weather and said that sea defences on Hunstanton seafront had been neglected in recent years. He strongly urged local MPs to ensure that Government released funds to allow the additional necessary works to be carried out such as raising the promenade and adding more rock armour to the Northern side. Hunstanton-On-Line would like to reiterate that plea!
North Norfolk MP, Norman Lamb, likened part of the flood-hit Norfolk coast to a “war zone”. Press reports indicate that some 1,400 homes and businesses around Britain were flooded. The Environment Agency said damage had been minimised by improved flood defences, protecting at least 800,000 homes. Let’s hope the funds are found to ensure that sea defence improvements continue to be applied along our coast to ensure we all stay safe and prepared for such forces of nature.
Explanation of types of sea defence options available:
Concrete sea walls – reduce wave energy but are expensive to build and maintain.
Rock armour – is the placement of large hard rock boulders in front of sea walls (sometimes used as groynes).
Groynes – are walls built at right angles to the coast and a familiar sight off Hunstanton and Heacham beaches. They are traditionally made of wooden railway sleepers but they can be made of rock armour. Helps prevent beach and shingle migration.
Gabions – are wire netted blocks of medium sized pieces of hard rock.
Revetments – are slatted and angled low wooden walls parallel to the beach. They act to absorb wave energy and protect soft cliffs.