The Great Cley Floods 6
Friday, February 5th, 1953
Of course the storm was the talking point in the town and all the surrounding towns for the next period of time. Everyone wanted to know why it had happened, whether it might happen again, why they weren’t warned.
TheEastern Daily Press ran stories about it each day, and Martin bought a paper and brought it
home with him each night. They gradually began to piece together the series of events.
First of all it had been a high tide, and seven in the evening is when high tide is at its highest. Then there had been a strong wind, some saying it was 100 miles per hour and others had it at 120. Then came the breaking of the sea defences, walls and stone barriers that had been built up naturally by the sea bringing in rocks over the years, and others which had been built specifically to keep the sea out. There had been many other floods in Cley, one only six years previously, but this was the worst in history. The last big one was in 1893, and before that there was a bad one in 1853. “I know about that one,” thought Mary, but she didn’t say anything out loud.
Stories began appearing in the paper of the numbers of people who died. Only two had died in the nearby villages, none in Cley itself. One woman in Salthouse, the neighbouring village, had broken her leg at the start of the flood, and her husband had put her on the dining room table. The force of the water washed her out the window and she was drowned.
For the whole storm, which swept the entire East coast, the death toll was 307. Over 5000 homes in
Norfolk were destroyed or badly damaged. The country’s sea defences were broken in 2,000 places and nearly 40,000 acres of farmland were flooded.
The papers called the flood a surge on top of a spring tide. The predicted water level was to 22.9
feet on that night, but the actual level was 31 feet, making the surge 8 feet 1 inch.
Amongst the other causes as well as the wind were the heavy rains, and the state of the moon which of course controls the tides on the high seas and the rotation of the earth. There had been a full moon two days previously and the winds of hurricane force had started in the Orkneys and Moray and built as they progressed down the coast of the North Sea. The normal ebb of the tide was blocked by the fury of the wind.
Mary clipped the articles from the EDP as she felt it was something that the children in years to
come would like to know more about it. But, she, of course, had missed much of the fear of that first night when the flood came.