Whitby was hit by yet another Storm Surge on Fri 13th January. Many parts of the town were awash again, with huge waves overtopping the crumbling piers and their extensions. Advance warning had been given by the Environment Agency and temporary barriers had been put in place. Some of these barriers were just washed aside by the breakers rushing up the slipway at the Battery and along Pier Road.
The ice cream hut near the Bandstand was swept off its mountings and washed up several yards away, as shown in last week’s Whitby Gazette and on their website. Their half-page cover photo is entitled ‘Clinging for life’ and shows a pedestrian washed off their feet. The person struggles amongst a wild sea of foam, wheelie bins and the 1 ton dumpy bags placed as a flood barrier. Other photos by Ceri Oakes show the waves crashing over the piers and also the flooded town centre around the Dock End. Many homes and businesses were affected yet again.
A Storm Surge is when an intense low pressure system over the sea leads to a higher than predicted sea level. Added to this are the strong winds associated with any intense low pressure system. If these happen to be blowing towards the coast, as happened here on Friday 13th, then the already raised sea level is pushed up even further against the shore. If this all coincides with the time of high tide, then the situation becomes even worse. Luckily, high tide that day was predicted to be a fairly average 5.8 metres, rather than the occasional very high tides we sometimes get of well over 6 metres.
Whitby’s property owners are now all too familiar with the inconvenience and expense of coastal flooding, but this is perhaps the first time that human life has actually been seen to be at risk. The dramatic cover photograph speaks for itself and shows just how vital are the piers and extensions. And just how urgent are the major repairs they need.