Floods that hit Hawick last winter rated as worst on record

Hawick Rugby Club's pitch under water last December.
Hawick Rugby Club's pitch under water last December.

The floods that unleashed devastation on Hawick and other towns in the Borders last winter were the most extreme on record in the UK, experts have concluded.

An appraisal of the floods of December last year and January, published on the first anniversary of Storm Desmond, assesses them as ranking alongside those of March 1947 as the largest event of their kind for at least a century.

The three months to January were the wettest quarter seen in records dating back to 1910, and last December was the dampest month ever recorded in the UK, according to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the British Hydrological Society.

Storm Desmond hit the Borders on December 5, followed by Storm Frank on December 31 and Storm Gertrude on January 29, caused widespread infrastructure damage and leaving the region facing a repair bill totalling almost £5m.

Hawick, Selkirk, Jedburgh and Peebles were among the Scottish towns hardest hit by last winter’s flooding.

Lead report author Terry Marsh said: “At a national scale, the winter floods of 2015-16 were the most extreme on record.

“The November-to-January period was the wettest three-month sequence in the UK rainfall series, which begins in 1910. The associated flooding was both extensive and repetitive, and total river outflows from Great Britain following the passage of Storm Desmond in December exceeded the previous maximum by a substantial margin.”

Ed Henderson, a co-author of the review, added: “Speaking with flood victims, the words that come out are despair, fear and anxiety – fear of flooding again and the anxiety of an approaching winter.

“Floods don’t just take your home, the place where you should feel safe – they often take your future as well.”

Though last winter’s floods were more extreme in scale, their 1947 predecessors had a greater impact in terms of homes flooded and crops destroyed as flood defences then were rudimentary compared to those built since.

In the 12 months since Storm Desmond, two flood defence schemes have been completed in the Borders, at Selkirk and Jedburgh, and two others are taking shape, at Hawick and Peebles.

Flood protection works being lined up in Hawick are due to go before councillors and the Scottish Government for approval next year.

Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for roads and infrastructure, said: “Hawick flood protection scheme continues to be a priority for the council.

“We will continue to engage with local people as the scheme enters its next phase in 2017.”