One of Leeds’s top flooding experts said the city had a ‘close shave’ earlier this year, due to severe rainstorms during February, writes Richard Beecham.
The comments were made during a discussion on flood-risk in the city, during which it was claimed authorities in the city performed well to avoid a repeat of the 2015 Boxing Day floods which saw parts of Kirkstall, Burley, Rodley and the city centre flood when the River Aire broke its banks.
A meeting of Leeds City Council’s Infrastructure Scrutiny Board also heard how several flood risk measures had recently been completed or were under way in the district.
The council’s flood risk manager Jonathan Moxon told the meeting that flooding almost happened again earlier this year, following major storms in February – with the impact on Kirkstall and Burley covered here by WLD. We also featured Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves saying the area came ‘centimetres from disaster’ here.
Mr Moxon said:
“This year, the biggest test we were given was in February with Storm Ciara followed quickly by Storm Dennis.
“We did have what I would term as a ‘close shave’ for lots of communities in Leeds. Other parts of the region were severely affected, but as a city, some of the defences we installed performed really well.
“It was the first time the defences were used. They reduced flood levels in the city centre by about a metre.
“The infrastructure worked well and so did the people.”
A report which went before members detailed the effects of Storm Ciara, which hit Leeds on 9 February 2020, said:
“Met Office records for West Yorkshire show this area to have been the worst hit and the rainfall in this 24 hour period exceeded the previously recorded average total monthly rainfall for February since 1981.
“Storm Ciara caused widespread flooding across the city. The recorded levels on the Aire and Wharfe were at their highest since Boxing Day 2015. The Leeds FAS was fully operated for the first time. Fire crews in Leeds dealt with 700 calls in a six-hour period and attended over 100 emergencies.
“Bus and Train services were severely disrupted, highways were seriously affected and police had to close several roads.”
Work on phase two of the city’s £122m flood alleviation scheme is currently under way. Council officer say the scheme uses “natural flood management techniques” to help slow the flow of the River Aire.
Coun Mohammed Rafique, Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities told the meeting:
“We did have a close shave in terms of the flooding, but it shows the work we have done already.
“More work needs to be done, but it is a project that is under way.”