Recognising the danger of a storm surge

CLLR John Ley-Morgan's letter (Weston & Somerset Mercury, January 26) opined much sense in recognising the danger of a storm surge, however his solution

CLLR John Ley-Morgan's letter (Weston & Somerset Mercury, January 26) opined much sense in recognising the danger of a storm surge, however his solution of a marina incorporating a breakwater would not do anything for the prevention of a possible storm surge inundating the town.No one who lives in Weston and has seen a high tide backed by gale force winds could doubt the power of the sea. Having lived here for more than 60 years and sailed in the bay, I have the greatest respect for a combination of wind and tide and clearly to safeguard Weston from the possibility of flooding over the coming decades action must be taken now.There are two ways of approaching this. Firstly are we more concerned with the encroachment of the sea defences by storm waves, secondly in the longer term or, possibly shorter who knows, by severe flooding of our town from a storm surge combined with high tide? The first case could be solved by building a breakwater. The second would require more secure measures. One, the construction of a tidal barrier whether in the vicinity of Weston, i.e. the bay or further afield i.e. Somerset coast to Welsh coast encompassing all the ports of the lower Severn Estuary, a scheme highly discussed in the 1960s/70s and additionally providing generated power from tidal energy. A truly gigantic scheme taking decades to plan and build, or secondly, protection of Weston by means of raising the sea defences, a sea wall.A combination of events caused the worst known flooding of the east coast in 1953 with a huge loss of life and to a much lesser degree on the Somerset coast in 1981. These events were caused by storm surges. Although extremely rare they can happen at any time given the combination of events, storm winds, low air pressure, high tide and depth of the sea floor. A wall could be built to combat storm surges and rising sea levels and it will also act as a defence against exceptional waves, however a marina or breakwater might guard against exceptional waves but will not be effective against storm surge.The sea wall would have to be raised considerably from the Grand Pier to the rise of land at Marine Lake. It need not all be doom and gloom as the promenade could also be raised a commensurate amount to act as reinforcement. This would mean that views for walkers and the seats on the seafront would be maintained. The road would be lower with access to it via ramps. The hotels alongside the seafront would be disadvantaged by the loss of views from ground level - a small price to pay for prevention of flooding. However no doubt they would adapt and possibly move their bars and dining rooms to the first floor with veranda access, using the ground level for parking and utilities. Great improvements have been made in recent years on the design of sea defences utilising complex composite structures and assessment and forecasting of wave overtopping. These are worth considering to maximise the impact of wave reflection or absorption. These improvements incorporated in the design of a new sea wall in the vulnerable area would obviate the need for the addition of a splash wall and would safeguard Weston for many years to come.If the cheaper temporary option is taken, that is to raise the sea wall and provide a splash barrier further work would be necessary at a later date, postponing the inevitable with additional expenditure. M K WILMOT - Roman Road, Bleadon


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