Swamped by nature’s forces

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For many of us there will be temptation to feel a measure of comfort as we see and read news of extreme weather along the south coast of England and Wales.

There appears to be no end to the storms which, from a distance of 500 miles or so, don’t seem to be as bad as they would be if they arrived here.

The sheer power of the sea and its effect on coastal communities is awesome and unstoppable. The penalty for underestimating that sea power can be fatal, while the slow but unstoppable creep of inland flooding as it destroys farms, houses and whole environments must be mind-breaking to all but the most stoic of sufferers. We should not get too blasé about other communities’ recent flooding dramas as it would only take a casual flick of the Jet Stream to send weather like that our way.

As ever, the cry has gone up that too little has been done too late – and to an extent that has been true, with a sharp focus on the highly-visible policy of allowing environmentalists far too great a say in whatever controls might be made on drainage and water levels. An enhanced sense of responsibility towards the environment is commendable, but it is now becoming clear that in the corridors of government power it has been placed above the welfare of human beings and their need to make a living or even just exist.

That’s wrong and must change soon, but there are limits as to what can be achieved against the unstoppable forces of nature. This is a case where man must give way to nature and any measures he takes can only take the form of damage limitation.

Considering our own situation and without being more pessimistic than usual, we have to bear in mind that Selkirk is well known as a place where flooding occurs.

The recent swampings in Jedburgh should make us forget all that twaddle about once-in-a-century floods. We could and probably will at some time get a big flood two years’ running or maybe (we hope) no flood for several decades. That is the way of these events and we should maybe urge the appropriate bodies to ramp up previous assessments of a couple of years ago to take into account a steady shortening of the odds that we will have to cope with a succession of severe floods as weather patterns change.

Those changes are meat and two veg to the global warming and climate change mob who are quick to inform us of their theories, but go very quiet when many of them are proven to be wide of the mark. As with all climate theories, time is the better judge.

Our weather and other climate variations have always been subject to cyclical change and our current wet spell will probably continue until the forces of nature, over which we have little or no control, produce a change. Remember, it is only two years ago since there was much discussion as to severe drought measures in the UK, only for it to turn, within a fortnight, to incessant rain for the whole summer. So much for accurate long-range weather forecasting.

Of course we have the prospect of drastic prevention measures to avoid further serious flooding in the lower areas of the Royal Burgh. In my summer wanderings I made a point of chatting to the nice folk who run the flood prevention display stall at various shows – time spent talking to these people is never wasted.

As far as I can recollect there are already preliminary measures taking place, mainly around the headwaters of various rivers and large streams, designed to slow the big rush of water that follows any major downpour. It takes a lot of imagination to link these measures of river meandering and back-pooling with the force of water we have seen here in the past, but I am ready to be convinced.

As for the major works nearer to Selkirk, there seems to be little progress, or should I say we have little news of any progress. People living in parts of the town previously flooded will be uneasy as to the prospect of another disastrous flood before the prevention measures are in place, and I for one do not blame them for that.

Passing out preparatory information to the public seems rather scant these days and in the event of a flood, prior knowledge of what we should do might save a lot of time, grief and money if the big waters arrive – or maybe it is the case there really isn’t much we can do to protect our homes, other than making free with the sandbag routine and double checking our insurance policies.

Our local authority, police and other emergency services all maintain flooding emergency plans, enabling them to mount a contingency response when the time comes, and I can see no sensible reason why households should not have some idea of what we can expect from them.

In copping days I got to take part in several major-incident exercises in which hypothetical situations such as aircraft crashes, major gas leaks, etc, were enacted. There was always an element of pantomime to the proceedings as there was no realistic training before the balloon went up.

I suppose lessons were learnt by some people at the top, but the one that usually missed them was their refusal to accept that prior training at all levels was vital in order that any subsequent exercise demonstrated how well (or otherwise) the training had been received and understood.

In realistic terms, all the talk in the world won’t do much good about flooding, and maybe acceptance of that fact is the first step towards coping with whatever it produces.

Perhaps we should use it as an example of the old saying that what goes around comes around – and remember these times when we have to endure summers of choking dust and weeks of unbroken sunshine. I wish!

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