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Storms and flooding in July and September 1968


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Posted
  • Location: Cheshire
  • Location: Cheshire

The gruesome summer of 1968 was noted for three storms and flooding:

2nd July - 53 years ago today, Bradford in W Yorkshire was affected by a freak storm which caused widespread damage and flooding. Hailstones the size of golf balls stripped bark from fruit trees and flattened raspberry canes at Apperley Bridge. Moving north to north east, the storm affected Harrogate and at Leeming 1.4 ins of rain fell in a very short space of time. At least five people were killed by lightning.

9th July - memorable flooding in Bristol, Bath, Gloucester and Peterborough, and the Cheddar Gorge caves were flooded for the first time in living memory. 173mm of rain fell at Chew Stoke in Somerset, and over 100mm fell in a wide area from Somerset through in a line to Lincolnshire

15th September - the flooding (which I remember) was widespread in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, N Kent, and S Essex. Over 200mm of rain fell at Tilbury and over 100mm widely in the above area. Damage to homes was widespread in S W London and N Surrey and it took over a week for the floodwaters to subside.

 

 

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  • 2 months later...
Posted
  • Location: Cheshire
  • Location: Cheshire

Sunday 15th September 1968 - 53 years ago but the floods of that day are remembered as if it were yesterday. 

Quoting from Ian Currie's very good book on Surrey Weather, "the culprit was a rapidly deepening depression to the SW of Britain which produced a pronounced trough of low pressure across Surrey, along which there were large scale vertical motions of the atmosphere. Worse still, it remained stationary all day on the 15th, and that meant prolonged heavy rain. The approach of the trough was heralded by a violent storm on Sat 14th which served to saturate the ground in preparation for the deluge to come. Later that evening the eastern horizon was lit up by frequent flashes of lightning. By midnight violent squalls buffeted Eastern Surrey and continued almost unabated throughout the 15th".

I remember it all, living in the same town as Ian at the time. Not being in a river catchment area meant that we got off comparatively lightly where we were, but my sister was stranded with her cousin on the other side of Dorking and the River Mole, and I was unable to take my driving test the following day because my instructor was stranded elsewhere and unable to get back in time to take me to the test centre. Ironically, my church was celebrating the Harvest Festival that day and there were certainly a few wry smiles as we sang of 'soft refreshing rain'!

With over 100mm of rain falling over much of Surrey and Kent, I think this must have been one of the wettest days ever in local weather history, and certainly the wettest I can remember. It took over a week for the clean-up to be completed, and flood prevention measures followed soon after in vulnerable parts of the region.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted
  • Location: Bempton, Bridlington, East Riding. 78m ASL
  • Location: Bempton, Bridlington, East Riding. 78m ASL

I remember these floods, at that time I lived in SW London, I didnt move to Yorkshire until 1980. The River Wandle flooded, and all the known trouble spots were impassable, usually dips under railway bridges. Quite few of my class mates at school were stuck at home.  At this time I was just developing an interest in meteorology, and had a basic set up in my parents garden. Max Min thermometer and a basic rain gauge. The problem was that the rain just carried on, and on, and on. My rain gauge recorded just under 4 inches, the wettest day I recorded while using the set up. I wish I had saved my records from that time, not sure what happened to them.

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Posted
  • Location: Irlam
  • Location: Irlam
On 02/07/2021 at 20:14, A Face like Thunder said:

 

15th September - the flooding (which I remember) was widespread in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, N Kent, and S Essex. Over 200mm of rain fell at Tilbury and over 100mm widely in the above area. Damage to homes was widespread in S W London and N Surrey and it took over a week for the floodwaters to subside.

 

 

From Guardian of 16th Sept

dAkpKVf.jpgksQt9L6.jpg

 

From 17th Sept

OunUviY.jpgID32hni.jpgConK5IS.jpgkafTQVE.jpg

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Posted
  • Location: Islington, C. London.
  • Weather Preferences: Cold, snowy winters and mixed summers.
  • Location: Islington, C. London.

It's been said elsewhere, but many a similarity to 1968 and 2021 in many ways. particularly late March/early April and the unusual frequency of cool and wet conditions in the south and drier and warmer further north. Thankfully we weren't subject to a supersoaker event this year as in 1968. The September 1968 floods look remarkably extreme. Can't imagine how heavy and prolonged the rain must have been. I remember a spell of very wet weather across SE England on Oct. 11th, 2013 which caused quite a bit of localised flooding, so times that by 10x! 

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Posted
  • Location: Islington, C. London.
  • Weather Preferences: Cold, snowy winters and mixed summers.
  • Location: Islington, C. London.

Apologies for double post, but the pressure anomaly charts show this unusual period very well. Heights tended to be well below average to the south so I imagine much of W/C Europe must of have an absolute shocker. The May-Sept. anomaly shows show strong this was

MAYimage.thumb.png.d2ce5325e73a9be2ec0561b941134cbd.png

JUNEimage.thumb.png.851e04be004b93d56b5796de6272f858.png

JULYimage.thumb.png.1338d260f2e849f8d7d167c86fbacda5.png

AUGUSTimage.thumb.png.f160c371b589a7da9c88efa4ca49b8e8.png

SEPTEMBERimage.thumb.png.5eaf713d890cd66cd5d41b4f7a4c9fea.png

MAY-SEPTimage.thumb.png.d224f508bb8259abfc17121079287772.png

Temperature anomalies for each month from May to September and overall

MAY    image.thumb.png.2e2d7d737c95a8665f97ee87a16f9832.png

JUNEimage.thumb.png.e463feb29b0e8013d84cb6f068e933d2.png

JULYimage.thumb.png.cb1d8864506fdb424d9a8f700a4ce1dc.png

AUGUSTimage.thumb.png.05f8b0698155794feb65311ebea1965c.png

SEPTimage.thumb.png.f0f22f4949cc9ef9e3e553c7babdb746.png

OVERALL image.thumb.png.a6a5c026e1b373f93f103dfa5f0c8832.png

Interesting that August 1968 was very warm in Ireland. IIRC I remember a post saying how August 1968 was a very good one there.

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Posted
  • Location: Beccles, Suffolk.
  • Weather Preferences: Thunder, snow, heat, sunshine...
  • Location: Beccles, Suffolk.
2 minutes ago, A Face like Thunder said:

Ironically, on Monday 1st July 1968, when violent storms were affecting the West Country and S Wales, the temperature shot up in London & the SE to 90F+. Just a day, blink and you've missed it, such was the summer of 1968! 

And don't forget the red rain. Was that the day when Tower Bridge got stuck? On a more important matter, I think it was the day I earned my Beginners' Swimming Certificate!image.thumb.png.89af1b515385c7ee018e37c39502447c.png

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Posted
  • Location: Cheshire
  • Location: Cheshire

Thank you Weather-history for this most informative post. 'Met Office criticism, danger of flooding increases....'  and that from over 50 years ago! Interesting that the 90F temperature on 1st July 1968 was the first in 7 years. A far cry from the present day, but such were the summers of the 1960s. Your later Guardian articles referring to London & the SE are from mid-September 1968 rather than July as the freak storms of 1st-2nd July did not affect south-eastern parts. Thank you again. 

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Posted
  • Location: Hampshire
  • Weather Preferences: Warm-by-day sunny thundery summers , short cold snowy winters.
  • Location: Hampshire
On 06/10/2021 at 02:38, LetItSnow! said:

Apologies for double post, but the pressure anomaly charts show this unusual period very well. Heights tended to be well below average to the south so I imagine much of W/C Europe must of have an absolute shocker. The May-Sept. anomaly shows show strong this was

MAYimage.thumb.png.d2ce5325e73a9be2ec0561b941134cbd.png

JUNEimage.thumb.png.851e04be004b93d56b5796de6272f858.png

JULYimage.thumb.png.1338d260f2e849f8d7d167c86fbacda5.png

AUGUSTimage.thumb.png.f160c371b589a7da9c88efa4ca49b8e8.png

SEPTEMBERimage.thumb.png.5eaf713d890cd66cd5d41b4f7a4c9fea.png

MAY-SEPTimage.thumb.png.d224f508bb8259abfc17121079287772.png

Temperature anomalies for each month from May to September and overall

MAY    image.thumb.png.2e2d7d737c95a8665f97ee87a16f9832.png

JUNEimage.thumb.png.e463feb29b0e8013d84cb6f068e933d2.png

JULYimage.thumb.png.cb1d8864506fdb424d9a8f700a4ce1dc.png

AUGUSTimage.thumb.png.05f8b0698155794feb65311ebea1965c.png

SEPTimage.thumb.png.f0f22f4949cc9ef9e3e553c7babdb746.png

OVERALL image.thumb.png.a6a5c026e1b373f93f103dfa5f0c8832.png

Interesting that August 1968 was very warm in Ireland. IIRC I remember a post saying how August 1968 was a very good one there.

Looking at those anomaly maps, might August 1968 have been the poorest (dullest, coldest, wettest) August on record across Europe as a whole? Very rare to have such a large area of Europe under poor weather.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted
  • Location: Hamstreet Kent, recently of Pagham nr Bognor Regis
  • Location: Hamstreet Kent, recently of Pagham nr Bognor Regis
On 08/10/2021 at 10:51, Summer8906 said:

Looking at those anomaly maps, might August 1968 have been the poorest (dullest, coldest, wettest) August on record across Europe as a whole? Very rare to have such a large area of Europe under poor weather.

I was at school in Essex in 1968. Amongst the various memories of the weather events that I have of that year, I remember reading an article in the Sunday Times concerning the first nine days of August about the weather being exceptionally dull in SE England and East Anglia (where you would expect more sunshine in an average December in that time), and being exceptionally sunny in at least some of Scotland. 

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Posted
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire
  • Weather Preferences: Sunshine, convective precipitation, snow, thunderstorms, "episodic" months.
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire
On 08/10/2021 at 10:51, Summer8906 said:

Looking at those anomaly maps, might August 1968 have been the poorest (dullest, coldest, wettest) August on record across Europe as a whole? Very rare to have such a large area of Europe under poor weather.

I'd be surprised if August 1968 was anywhere near August 1912.  It was widely the coolest (at least for maximum temperature) and wettest August on record and Durham had just 57 hours of sunshine.

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  • 9 months later...
  • 1 month later...
  • 11 months later...
Posted
  • Location: Cheshire
  • Location: Cheshire

Today is the 55th anniversary of the Surrey Floods. I remember the 15th September 1968 well as I was living in Surrey at the time. The events actually began the previous afternoon with a series of heavy thunder showers culminating in a spectacular storm at around midnight. Thereafter, the rain cascaded down continuously until about 6pm on Sunday 15th, the like of which I have not seen before or after in the UK. The highest rainfall total was in Essex, 200mm at Tilbury and Stifford, in Surrey 135mm fell at Redhill, and an area of 6250 sq km of land in a broad zone of the SE had 100+mm of rain over 24 hours. There were disastrous consequences in particular for those in the catchment areas of the Rivers Mole & Wey  and the water in and around Molesey took about a week to finally subside. Those affected included my sister, who was stranded with her cousin on the other side of the Mole at Dorking and myself as I failed to make it to my driving test on the 16th at Redhill as the my instructor couldn't make it back from a weekend away. Davison & Currie wrote about this historic event in their very good 1990 book, The Surrey Weather Book, and in it they noted that 'the culprit was a rapidly deepening depression to the SW of Britain which produced a pronounced trough of low pressure across Surrey, along which there were large scale vertical motions of the atmosphere. Worse still, it remained stationary all day on the 15th'. Thus the 15th September 1968 will always be remembered as a historic day in Surrey weather history.     

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Posted
  • Location: Hamstreet Kent, recently of Pagham nr Bognor Regis
  • Location: Hamstreet Kent, recently of Pagham nr Bognor Regis

I remember the disastrous weather then being in the main news. I was living in NW Essex then so I was to the north of the most dramatic action. I do remember that during the afternoon of Saturday 14th it got progressively darker, and then when I was walking in Hatfield Forest I heard a rumble of thunder but not seeing lightning.  There was probably alot of low cloud as well as the trees in the forest obscuring it. 

It was certainly a wet weekend even where I was.

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  • 5 months later...
Posted
  • Location: Islington, C. London.
  • Weather Preferences: Cold, snowy winters and mixed summers.
  • Location: Islington, C. London.

The chart for July 1st, 1968 is fascinating for many different reasons but it's a great example of the difference between what is capable now vs then.

The 20C line extended well into the south-east and may at some point during the afternoon have been as high as 21C in some places. Such heat formed a heat low and it's little wonder why the storms were so intense!

image.thumb.png.d4b43c491666e8c0492b37baba1fb2d7.pngimage.thumb.png.8702d915d0dbb96dd836afb084483880.png

What's interesting is how the hottest temperature of that spell was 33C but that same would be much hotter today. It's interesting because it's an example (to me) of what a current era synoptic would produce back then. Indeed that chart wouldn't look out of place in July 2024.

Compare the chart to two days later on July 3rd, 1968 which was positively freezing in comparison!

image.thumb.png.6b323d5a8e0ba1e7d32f5403c5f66943.png

EDIT: What's also interesting is how we almost had a second bite on the 10th. July 1968 was on a knife edge from having some seriously hot weather dominating.

image.thumb.png.8baf1288a3bd506b85103e4beda8c647.png

Edited by LetItSnow!
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