Tuesday, 3 July 2012

It's just a bit of rain......

It's nearly a week now since last Thursday's "Great Flood" but everywhere in Newcastle and Tyneside people are still talking about it.  Everyone has their flood story, generally about how they managed to struggle home against all the odds, often wading through knee-high water or worse, crawling along in grid-locked traffic and sometimes having to abandon their cars.  This was exactly the moment when we arrived home from a wonderful holiday in Provence (lovely, thank you: sunshine, good food and wine and even the opportunity of fame as we were asked to appear as extras in a new film - though that's another story).  After a flight delayed by "les orages a Newcastle", we landed in rain, lightning and chaos at Newcastle Airport.  Insufficient numbers of immigration officers were trying to process the backlog of increasingly angry passengers, but this was a minor problem compared with what came later.  We soon had our own flood story, as we attempted to drive home to Tynemouth, only to get stuck in often stationary traffic and then find every potential route flooded and roads closed by the police.  There were police cars, ambulances and fire engines trying to push through the queues and attempting to deal with the flooded roads and distressed families.  Desperate parents were leaving their cars and walking miles with babies and small children.   We got home safely in the end, many hours later, but it was a very stark reminder of the power of the elements and their ability to disrupt our everyday lives.  As everyone has been telling one another in the days that followed, this was an unprecedented event in our lifetimes.  Is it attributable to environmental change and will it happen again?  I'm not a climate scientist and I wouldn't attempt to speculate on that, but we do seem to be experiencing some extreme climatic events.  Scientists tell us that environmental change is happening, and whether or not we can attribute this particular heavy rainfall to a shift in our climate, or to human activity, there may be more such incidents in the future.  So it does feel like a wake-up call for many of us.  Maybe we really do need to be more prepared, both individually and as a society.   Just as many parents now will be packing their cars with baby food and warm clothing before every journey "just in case", we may need to think much more carefully about how we develop our infrastructure and how we organise our lives, "just in case".

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