Flooding in Sidmouth 7 July 2012 - links to internet discussions, pictures, videos, climate models etc.

Impact upon FolkWeek 2012 and the need for contingency planning.

In 2012 there was awfully wet weather in June and early July over much of the UK and especially in Devon and Dorset - which made people understandably nervous about possible conditions on the main FolkWeek Bulverton campsite. Many sporting and music events were cancelled in 2012 often because of safety concerns over car parking on very muddy fields, etc.

As of mid July, safety concerns had not precluded use of either the main Bulverton campsite or the FolkWeek main car park.

Farmland and some roads around Sidmouth were flooded on 7 July 2012 - four weeks before FolkWeek and (it might have been thought) giving the land ample time to dry out. However, there was sporadic rain in the week before the event, which hampered recovery.

Many photo and video links of the flooding in Sidmouth on 7 July 2012 are here.

A summary from the Met Office site: - extremes of weather are nothing new!

The south west peninsula is prone to rare, but very heavy rainfall events lasting from about 5 to 15 hours. The famous storm which devastated Lynmouth in north Devon on 15 August 1952 was one of these, when one place on Exmoor had 228 mm in 12 hours. Other similar events are the 200 mm at Otterham near Boscastle in Cornwall on 16 August 2004, 203 mm at Camelford in Cornwall on 8 June 1957 and 243 mm in 13 hours at Bruton in Somerset in June 1917. The highest recorded daily rainfall total in UK was at Martinstown in Dorset when 279 mm was recorded on 18 July 1955.

Sidmouth escaped very lightly on 7 July and there was unlikely to be much disruption to the festival - unless of course it rained heavily again at inopportune moments before or during FolkWeek. As for when it might stop raining - internet discussion centred on the unusual position of the jet stream. In the event, FolkWeek 2012 was 'sunshine and showers' - not too unusual!

In mid summer 2012 the jet stream had fixed itself in an unusual position. It usually moves around more, and north of the UK. In June/July it was located in a more southerly position around the globe - and fixed, without any known reason. This explained the excessive rainfall in the UK - and the record breaking temperatures in the USA.

Further discussion of jet stream behaviour in mid summer 2012 is here, and with a more detailed scientific summary here.

icehouselane18july.jpg (346729 bytes) As of mid July, the rain abated and land around Sidmouth started to dry out.

However, on 17 July 2012 there was still a large (10 foot long and 8" deep) puddle of smelly brown water across Ice House Lane (this runs alongside the campsite - see map).

The camping field was a mess of puddles, standing brown water in hoof marks and other delights. It was getting better by the day but at the start of FolkWeek - almost a month after the floods on 7 July, the lower parts were still 'out of bounds' owing to poor ground conditions.

This area of Ice House Lane is about half the way down to the bottom campsite entrance (footpath).

After 7 July,  the jet stream then moved north - and so much better weather resulted, for a while. Indeed there was a mini heat wave for over a week, 23 to 29 July.

In the longer term, the narrow escape of 2012 should encourage discussion of a reserve of alternative camp and motorhome locations in and around Sidmouth. These could include a hundred or more private driveways and gardens, ideally with some hard standing and each able to accommodate even one or two families. If the floods of 7 July 2012 had occurred a few weeks later, the entire Bulverton campsite and parking field would probably have been unusable - leaving attendees with nowhere to camp. Also, the Bulverton LNE venue might not have been able to be constructed owing to access problems for heavy vehicles.

The festival organisers made much of the fact that most venues in Sidmouth are 'covered' and not subject to the vagaries of 'green field site' festivals, but they were nevertheless lucky in that the impact of the floods had largely dissipated weeks before FolkWeek began. Their circular email of mid July led to some comment on mudcat:

From: JHW
Date: 15 Jul 12 - 03:50 AM

The Sidmouth email out says "We are very lucky that, unlike many green field site summer festivals, Sidmouth FolkWeek has all of its main events within our covered secure marquees and town buildings and all with easy access to roads."

So no probs with mud in marquees this year.

From: Steve in Sidmouth
Date: 15 Jul 12 - 04:57 AM

I'd forgotten about the six lane highway recently constructed to the Bulverton dance marquee. It was paid for by the Greek government. They had some spare EU cash and needed to spend it before the end of the financial year.

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