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The South Wales Floods Of 1960

February 17, 2020

By Paul Homewood




As expected, it has been South Wales which has taken the brunt of the rain from Storm Dennis, with a very rare red warning being issued there by the Met Office yesterday.


The top 48-hour rainfall totals were all in the area of Glamorgan and the Brecon Beacons:

 ScreenHunter_5613 Feb. 17 16.18 


As seems almost inevitable now whenever there is a flood, the media tell us we have had a month’s worth of rainfall in a day, as if this is unprecedented. In fact two or three inches in a day is a common event somewhere in Britain every year.

There are certain areas of Britain which are highly vulnerable to flooding, and South Wales unfortunately is one, thanks to the topography so close to the Brecon Beacons. The region has a history of bad floods. One in particular stands out, December 1960, when this rather poignant home movie was shot by an amateur cameraman.

The first 4 minutes are a bit boring, but it is worth watching the rest. I was particularly fascinated at the bit near the end, when a couple of locals put their lives at risk trying to repair a bridge!



The Met Office report for that month can be directly compared with Storm Dennis:




Note that both storms were centred near Iceland.

Whereas Dennis put down about 6 inches of rain in 48 hours, the 1960 storm dropped 7 inches over three days, with up to 5.5 inches in a 20-hour period in the Rhondda.


People argue that these sort of storms are more common  nowadays, but is there any evidence for these, other than subjective impression?

Just two years before the 1960 floods, Wales was hit by another storm, almost as bad, with more than 3 inches of rain in a day in places, leading to widespread flooding:




The British Rainfall publication for 1958 confirms the widespread nature of these measurements, and their presence at low level sites, rather than just up in the Brecons.




A trawl of the archives would doubtlessly uncover many more such examples, such as Nov 1929, when 211mm fell on Maerdy in a single day, leading to disastrous floods:


Storms and floods such as these are unfortunately natural reoccurring events. It is saddening that climate scientists, politicians and the media now want to make political capital out of them.

  1. MrGrimNasty permalink
    February 17, 2020 7:34 pm

    It’s not just sad – it’s selling people a double lie.

    (1) That if only £x is spent on a flood scheme they will be protected, they won’t. You cannot build any scheme that will have a water-tight guarantee. Water will always search out the low point or punch through a weak spot, solve one, it finds the next. Many new schemes that were supposed to cope with the abused statistical ‘1/100 year event’ just failed months after completion. They are trying to cater for a randomly moving target of unlimited (natural) magnitude.

    (2) That money spent ‘combating climate change’ in the UK will make any difference and is not just money down the drainage ditch. How can it possibly help, when even before climate change these floods happened all the time anyway, and the UK’s emission are beyond insignificant globally. The leaky dam/wooding upland areas to prevent floods is another environmental ‘re-wilding’ scam. Regardless of the fact that there are no conclusive studies that show it works at scale, common sense says it can’t possibly make any significant difference – the volumes of water are too immense.When the ground is saturated it is saturated, if tree roots improve surface permeability it will just saturate quicker, it won’t stop the runoff, just as a leaky dam won’t. You’re talking minuscule differences, minutes delay and mm less depth, simply not value for money.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      February 17, 2020 8:09 pm

      I don’t believe that flood defence can’t work, however the current EPA hasn’t got a clue about what to do.
      The old methods work the best, which is a combination of
      Flood plains
      Tree planting
      Chanelling the water away (very important)
      Keeping flood chanels clear, especially gates etc
      Dredging rivers and using the silt on the banks & fields
      Building up river banks in the correct places

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        February 17, 2020 9:21 pm

        Absolutely, changing/abandoning practices that have worked adequately or mostly in the past, to save money or bend to the will of fashionable loony eco ideals, is just as silly.

    • dennisambler permalink
      February 17, 2020 10:52 pm

      Absolutely nothing to do with “climate change”, or CO2, but more to do with natural cycles:

      High-magnitude flooding across Britain since AD 1750
      Neil Macdonald and Heather Sangster, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Liverpool, March 2017

      Click to access hess-21-1631-2017.pdf

      “The apparent increase in flooding witnessed over the last decade appears in consideration to the long-term flood record not to be unprecedented; whilst the period since 2000 has been considered as flood-rich, the period 1970–2000 is “flood poor”, which may partly explain why recent floods are often perceived as extreme events.

      The much publicised (popular media) apparent change in flood frequency since 2000 may reflect natural variability, as there appears to be no shift in long-term flood frequency.

      The principal findings of this work are that of the strong correlations between flood-rich/flood-poor phases and solar magnetic activity, AMO and NAOI, indicating a clear driver for flooding patterns across Britain.

      This work suggests that high-magnitude flood-rich periods relate to negative NAOI across much of the country, in western catchments with a stronger westerly airflow signal significantly correlating to positive NAOI, with reasonable correspondence with previously diagnosed periods of climatic variability identified from individual series from across Europe.

      It also identifies the importance of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation as a clear correlation is shown between higher North Atlantic sea temperatures and increased severe flood events across much of Britain.”

      • February 18, 2020 9:37 am

        The summary of that paper should be plastered across billboards the length and breadth of the country.

    • permalink
      February 17, 2020 11:00 pm

      You really don’t know what you are talking about. The Environment Agency are only allowed to construct flood defences that give 25 year flood event protection.
      Why don’t you check out the ‘Slowing the Flow’ initiative in Pickering which gives most of the town that 25 year level of protection without building very expensive flood walls in the town. Woody debris dams contribute about 10% of the protection but there has also been a lot of trees planted, grips blocked with heather bales and there measures to slow the run off from the catchment.

    • George Lawson permalink
      February 18, 2020 9:18 am

      Quite correct, but equally importantly, flood protection upstream means bigger floods down stream. The water has to go somewhere.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        February 18, 2020 9:42 am

        Which is why it is better to divert some of it away from the rivers that go through vilages, towns & cities.

    • cajwbroomhill permalink
      February 20, 2020 10:35 am

      Entirely agree.
      Very relevant, esp. re the absurd, priceless UK decarbonisation, a speculative remedy anyway but certainly futile for Britain, since greenhouse gases from here too small a proportion f the planet’s to count.

  2. MrGrimNasty permalink
    February 17, 2020 7:36 pm

    I’ve reposted this from the other thread as it’s more current/pertinent here.

    Almost to the day 1946.

    And Pathe is a near bottomless pit of similar films!

    • Jackington permalink
      February 17, 2020 8:16 pm

      Gosh, it’s just like today!!

  3. cajwbroomhill permalink
    February 17, 2020 8:10 pm

    “McGrim Nasty” is right on the button, as our UK leaders are completely off it, which is as costly as it is crazy.
    How could this have happened?

    Is there any chance the mad zero carbon policies might be reversed before our nation is ruined?

    Could8 our politicos admit they are catastrophically wrong?

  4. Paul Reynolds permalink
    February 17, 2020 8:24 pm

    You’re on a hiding to nothing. However much evidence of past flooding devastation is produced people will lap up whatever the media hysterics spew out and link it all to global warmlng – oops, sorry, I mean climate change! It’s sad and pathetic but deeply troubling too.

  5. john cooknell permalink
    February 17, 2020 8:30 pm

    Apparently according to the BBC the WYE at Hereford reached record high levels, I suspect August 28th 1912 was higher, but I cannot find the record.

  6. February 17, 2020 9:11 pm

    Water meadows used to absorb a lot of the rain. ,95 percent of these have been lost since the war. Now farmers plough down to the river’s edge and the water pours off the soil straight into the river, taking the topsoil with it. Or there are housing estates where the meadows used to be. A whole ecosystem had developed over millenia precisely because rivers do flood in winter. They’re supposed to. Far from being unusual or a disaster, it’s in the natural order of things. It’s our stupidity in planning and river and land management that’s to blame, not the weather

  7. john cooknell permalink
    February 17, 2020 9:13 pm

    Beavers are going to fix it just you wait and see!

  8. February 17, 2020 9:36 pm

    The BBC referred to “the highest levels we’ve ever recorded on the River Wye and those records go back 200 years” which is also reported by The Telegraph –

    The river levels can be found here –

    However, by chance or design, a book is also advertised there –

    I paid £7.49 for a Kindle version which was well spent because it explains that whilst climate change is a significant factor, the main driver concerns the overuse of land.

    At first, I thought, oh here we go again, another environmentalist! However, the author has won me over and explained that it is actually necessary eg to set aside wetlands to act as buffer zones alongside river courses.

    That’s the gist of it, highly recommended, covers EU and a lots more..

  9. February 17, 2020 9:52 pm

    jc, I remember the (Bann) river meadows, which were useful for the production of Hay, but that’s all, because they flooded at other times to provide necessary flood buffer zones

  10. February 17, 2020 9:57 pm

    PS, if only the BBC would tell people the truth!

  11. Pancho Plail permalink
    February 17, 2020 10:03 pm

    “People argue that these sort of storms are more common nowadays, but is there any evidence for these, other than subjective impression?”
    The problem is that the news media have 24 hour schedules to fill and massive teams of journalists to keep busy filling them. Hence news is manufactured, expectations are raised, stories massaged to tempt readers to come back and facts are carefully selected to emphasise the narrative.
    It is not surprising, then, that people’s impressions are what they are.

  12. dennisambler permalink
    February 17, 2020 10:42 pm

    Crickhowells is also making the news:
    This is the longest stone bridge in Wales. It has 12 or 13 arches, depending on which side you’re looking at! That might seem to be overkill in normal conditions, but the apertures each side of the river Usk are essential when the river bursts its banks after heavy rainfall.

    A bridge has crossed the river here since medieval times. The early structure was probably of timber and replaced or repaired after floods. A stone bridge, costing £400, was erected in 1706 and withstood the river forces until a flood in 1808.
    It started with heavy rain during December 1979, when a combination of water and snow came crashing down the Valleys to Cardiff.

    With a constant downpour over a number of days, the water levels of the River Taff continued to rise until the river finally burst its banks on December 27, leaving large parts of Canton, Pontcanna and Grangetown in water up to five feet deep.

    More than 1,000 people had to be evacuated and two people died as the city’s bus fleet became temporary homeless shelters.
    “The eye of the storm occurred on October 18 and October 19, 1987.

    A huge effort was carried out by the emergency services to retrieve people who had become trapped and cut off by the sheer amount of water that had burst over the top of the River Towy and onto the streets of Carmarthen.

    A few miles to the east, four people were killed when Glanrhyd Bridge, near Llandeilo, collapsed. The train plunged into the water waiting below, resulting in the death of three passengers and the train’s driver.”

  13. dennisambler permalink
    February 17, 2020 11:05 pm

    The Met Office is getting a new supercomputer which will sort these flood issues out, as their present supercomputer, commissioned in 2016, can’t do it:

    “Ever wondered why our forecasts for 5 days and beyond are written on the scale of the UK as a whole? When looking at forecasts beyond five days into the future the chaotic nature of the atmosphere starts to come into play – small events currently over the Atlantic can have potentially significant impacts on our weather in the UK in several days’ time.”
    17 OCT 2019

    “The Met Office has spoken out amid claims the UK is set for the worst winter in some 50 years. Forecasters have issued chilling predictions suggesting the bone-freezing weather will sweep Britain as we head towards 2020.

    October is set to bring with it the first taste of snow this winter, according to meteorologists, who also say snow will fall in November and December. Reports suggest the cold snap that will bring plunging temperatures and snow storms, but the Met Office have said there is no way to be certain.

    A spokesperson for the Met Office told the Liverpool Echo : “The science is just not there.
    “What you are trying to do is look at weather systems on the other side of the globe and how they might affect this tiny island.

    “The science for long-range forecasts simply does not exist.”

    Exacta Weather forecaster James Madden added: “October is now looking like it will turn out to be colder than average with more of a chance of something wintery setting in through the second half of the month. “There is a strong chance of widespread frosts and the chance of snowfall which will set the scene for November. This will pave the way for what is shaping up to be a colder than average winter with some extreme cold weather events.

    “This is relevant as solar energy effects ocean currents including the Gulf Stream currents which have a knock-on effect on the jet stream bringing cold air in the UK and bringing these weather patterns.”

    I don’t think any of them got much right, but who would have thought solar energy was important?

  14. February 17, 2020 11:30 pm

    I lived in Cardiff from 1947 – 1976 & saw lots of floods in Cardiff & the valleys, my mother was from Pontypridd & lots of family in the Rhondda. There were occasions when the only way in/out of Cardiff was the railway.
    Vividly remember dozens of sheep being washed down the river Taff.

    1960 was also the Six Bells Colliery Disaster (Abertillery).

    The floods of South Wales, December 1992

    There is a well-known story about Billy the seal being swept down Cowbridge Road from the lake at Victoria Park Canton during the Ely & Taff Rivers flood of 1927 & he tried to get on a tram.

  15. dfhunter permalink
    February 18, 2020 12:06 am

    “A woman has died after becoming submerged in floodwater as parts of England were deluged with a month’s worth of rain in a day.
    Her body was found hours after she was swept into Derbyshire’s River Derwent.”

    no other details offered by beeb – sad for all the family.

    can’t help but wonder how it happened?

    but the MSM get to report a death because off storm xxx, that’s all they care about it seems.

  16. dfhunter permalink
    February 18, 2020 12:17 am

    ps – on bbc news at 1pm today there was a comment/statement by someone (robin) saying this should be a 500yr event (think I heard correctly)?

    can’t find a link!!!

  17. Geoff permalink
    February 18, 2020 4:44 am

    What ever happened too the Mexican fella we blamed the weather on
    ELNINO ????
    Seems when they can’t predict the weather and there is some out of the ordinary episode they used to blame witchcrafts them elnino now the best climate change i

  18. David W permalink
    February 18, 2020 9:49 am

    Interesting read here too to add some balance:

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