Flood in Cumbria

Dive into an in-depth exploration of the notable Flood in Cumbria. This detailed guide unpicks the causes, impacts, and long-term implications of multiple flooding events, drawing particular attention to the 2009 and 2015 occurrences. You'll unearth key facts about floods in this region, dig into the role of defence mechanisms, and study both the positive and negative aftermath. Our hope is to not only provide information about past incidents but also to equip you with understanding to better face potential future incidents.

Flood in Cumbria Flood in Cumbria

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Table of contents

    Understanding the Flood in Cumbria

    Located in North West England, Cumbria is a predominantly rural county which is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty. With picturesque landscapes, the region is not a stranger to the extremes of nature, often suffering from severe floods. To comprehend these natural disasters, it becomes paramount to thoroughly understand the geographic and meteorological aspects behind them.

    Flooding is an overflow of large amounts of water beyond its normal confines, typically over what is dry land. The resulting water damage can devastate communities, destroying homes, businesses, and leading to loss of life.

    Review of the 2009 Floods in Cumbria

    November 2009 saw Cumbria grappling with the worst floods in its history. The event marked the highest level of rainfall ever recorded in the UK over a 24-hour period - 314.4mm. This particular flood led to the unfortunate loss of a police officer and caused extensive property damage.

    In the small town of Cockermouth, the water level in the River Derwent rose so dramatically that it swept away the Northside Bridge. The destruction of infrastructure led to significant isolation for local communities and took months to rebuild.

    During the 2009 flood, Cumbria's infrastructure was left in ruins, with more than 1,300 homes affected. The utility services were stretched beyond their limits, with road closures and power outages being reported all across the county.

    Key Causes of Flooding in Cumbria

    It's important to grasp the main factors contributing to floods in Cumbria. Predominantly, these include heavy rainfall, topography, soil conditions, and human intervention.

    • Heavy rainfall: The geography of Cumbria means that it often falls victim to severe Atlantic weather systems.
    • Topography: The steep slopes and valleys of the Lake District mean water flows quickly into river systems.
    • Soil conditions: The often saturated ground cannot absorb much additional water.
    • Human intervention: Urbanisation can lead to greater surface run-off and therefore boost flood risk.

    Top Facts about Flooding in Cumbria

    In order to recap and summarise, here are some riveting facts about flooding in Cumbria:

    The town of Seathwaite recorded the highest rainfall in the UK over 24 hours in 2009.
    Notably, the 2009 floods were dubbed a 'one in 1,000-year event'.
    Cumbria floods have frequently led to community isolation due to infrastructure damage.

    Impact of Flooding on the Physical Environment in Cumbria

    When discussing the impact of flooding in Cumbria, it’s hard to overlook its drastic effects on the county’s physical environment. With an extensive network of rivers, picturesque valleys, and abundant wildlife, the physical environment in Cumbria is intensely susceptible to the aftermath of flooding.

    The physical environment refers to the natural landscape, including physical and geographical features such as rivers, mountains, vegetation, wildlife and climate.

    The Role of Flood Defences in Cumbria

    Given the regularity and magnitude of floods in Cumbria, effective flood defences play a crucial role in managing and mitigating their impact. These structures and systems are designed to control the flow and size of rising water, reducing its damaging effects.

    A prominent flood defence system in Cumbria is the Keswick flood alleviation scheme. This structure, which includes a combination of raised embankments and wall defences, was developed to protect the town from the River Greta's swelling waters.

    Flood defences have a multifaceted role:

    • They reduce the vulnerability of settlements and infrastructure to floods.
    • They decrease the likelihood of human casualties.
    • They curtail the financial loss caused by property and agricultural damage.

    Although highly beneficial, flood defences aren't perfect solutions. They can sometimes simply displace the problem downstream. In addition, highly engineered structures can have significant environmental impacts, altering habitats and disrupting wildlife.

    Analysing the Impact of Flooding in Cumbria on Environment

    Examining the effect of flooding on the environment in Cumbria helps understand not just the immediate, but also the long-term changes it brings about. These can range from landscape alteration and soil erosion to adverse effects on wildlife habitats.

    An outline of environmental impact:

    • Landscape alteration: Flooding can cause dramatic changes in the local landscape due to the force of water and movement of debris.
    • Soil erosion: Strong floods can strip fertile topsoil layer, leading to poor soil quality and affecting local agriculture.
    • Wildlife disruption: The sudden surge of water can destroy habitats, leading to the displacement or death of local wildlife species.

    In-depth Study of the Cumbria Floods 2015

    December 2015 bore witness to another catastrophic flood event in Cumbria. Named 'Storm Desmond', this event was characterised by relentless rainfall that led to severe flooding.

    Storm Desmond was a vigorous extratropical cyclone and the fourth named storm of the 2015–16 UK and Ireland windstorm season. It brought record amounts of rainfall primarily to regions of northern England.

    The event led to widespread flooding across Cumbria, particularly affecting regions Carlisle, Keswick, and Appleby.
    A staggering 341.4mm of rainfall was recorded within 24 hours.
    The floodwaters led to substantial damage, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

    Storm Desmond had stern repercussions, including power cuts that affected tens of thousands of homes, widespread disruption to transport, and extensive damage to infrastructure. Furthermore, rare historic artefacts stored in the basement of Carlisle's Castle Museum were severely damaged by the floodwaters.

    After Effects and Transformation Post Cumbria Floods

    The aftermath of the Cumbria floods extends beyond immediate property damage and displacement of residents. Lasting changes in infrastructure, the local environment, and community resilience define the legacy of these natural disasters. Understanding the scale and nature of these transformations provides crucial insights into adapting and preparing for future flooding events.

    Understanding the Cumbria Floods 2015 and its After-Effects

    December 2015's Storm Desmond will be remembered as one of the most destructive flood events in Cumbria's history. However, to fully comprehend its long-lasting effects, it's important to delve deep into the transformations brought forth from the floodwaters.

    After-effects of a flood refer to the consequences, both immediate and long-term, that are experienced by natural and human systems once floodwaters have receded. This can encompass changes to the physical environment, economic loss, infrastructure damage, and community trauma.

    The 2015 Cumbria floods made an indelible mark:

    • The flood led to widespread property damage, which required extensive reconstruction in its wake.
    • Local infrastructure suffered, with many roads and bridges destroyed or severely damaged, requiring months to years for complete restoration.
    • Significant environmental impact was seen in the form of eroded soils and compromised wildlife habitats.

    The Long-Term Implications of the Cumbria Floods 2015

    The floods of 2015 had far-reaching implications for Cumbria, impacting not just the environment and infrastructure, but also the region's economy and community dynamics.

    Long-term implications of a flood event extend beyond immediate damage to property or resources. They include ongoing economic hardship, changes in land use, changes in community structure, and influencing future policy concerning flood defence and management.

    Here are some of the significant long-term effects of the 2015 Cumbria floods:

    • Communities were significantly affected with many residents wrestling with the psychological trauma of the event long after the waters subsided.
    • The floods' economic toll was significant, with enormous costs associated with repairs, insurance payouts, and loss of business.
    • Policy change and increased investment around flood defences and flood prevention strategies have become more prominent.

    The 2015 Cumbria floods urged a recalibration of flood management strategies. Significant resources were directed towards better understanding the local topography, climate, urban development, and infrastructure – insights that are now guiding how Cumbria prepares for and responds to catastrophic flood events.

    Positive and Negative Impacts of Cumbria Floods

    The aftermath of Cumbria's floods presented both challenges and opportunities, encapsulating both the harsh reality of natural disasters as well as the resilience of the affected communities.

    The positive impact of a flood sounds counterintuitive but can contribute to community solidarity, generation of employment in the reconstruction phase, and improvements in flood defences for future events. In contrast, the negative impacts are widely known, such as damage to property, loss of life, psychological trauma, and economic hardship.

    • Negative Impacts: Major repercussions such as damage to homes, personal injury, psychological trauma, financial hardship, environmental degradation and community displacement rank among the negative impacts.
    • Positive Impacts: On the brighter side, floods also sparked community solidarity, increased employment in reconstruction, and improved flood defences and preparedness for future events.

    Flood In Cumbria - Key takeaways

    • Flooding in Cumbria refers to the overflow of large amounts of water beyond normal confines, often causing devastation to communities, infrastructure, and leading to loss of life.
    • Key causes of flooding in Cumbria include heavy rainfall, topography, soil conditions, and human intervention, often leading to significant destruction and isolation of communities. The 2009 floods were notably damaging.
    • The impact of flooding on the physical environment entails dramatic landscape changes, soil erosion, and disruption to wildlife habitats. Flood defences in Cumbria aim minimize this impact, though they can also cause environmental disruptions.
    • The Cumbria floods in 2015, initiated by 'Storm Desmond', led to widespread flooding and significant damage in the region, affecting communities, infrastructure, and the environment.
    • The aftermath of Cumbria floods has both positive and negative impacts, encompassing property damage, community trauma, economic hardship, as well as improved community resilience, increased employment in reconstruction, and advancements in flood defences and preparedness.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Flood in Cumbria

    When were the Cumbria floods? 

    The Cumbria floods occurred in both November 2009 and December 2015

    How were the Cumbria floods managed? 

    The floods were managed in various ways such as implementing a flood management strategy, flood defences such as a self-closing river barrier, river dredging, and early warning systems. 

    Why is Cumbria prone to flooding? 

    Cumbria is prone to flooding due to the location of towns such as Cockermouth at the confluence of the Derwent and Cocker rivers. The area is also prone to storms and intense rainfall, with flooding events expected to become more frequent in the future due to climate change. 

    Why did the Cumbria floods in 2009 happen? 


    As a result of a deep depression which was formed in the Atlantic Ocean, warm air rose over the Cumbrian mountains and fell as relief rainfall. This heavy rainfall fell into the Derwent and Cocker rivers, with the rivers bursting their banks resulting in flooding. 

    What were the effects of the flood in Cumbria in 2015? 

    The 2015 floods were one of the worst and most destructive floods in the UK, with 7,465 properties flooded, transport disrupted, and water polluted to name some of the impacts. The floods were also estimated to have cost £500 million in damage. 


    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    _____ rain fell during the November 2009 floods 

    What is the definition of flooding?

    What were the impacts of the 2009 floods in Cumbria?


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