Storm Babet: Race against tide to install Swanage flood barrier

Swanage in Dorset was hit by Storm Babet as the Environment Agency battled the wind and the rain to put the winter flood protection blocks in place in time to prevent flooding along the seafront.

The timing of the installation of the seasonal temporary flood prevention blocks had been scheduled for the week beginning Monday 16th October 2023 but with Storm Babet approaching, the need increased to get the job completed quickly.

Gee Whityes during Storm Babet
Giga Pita

The cafe at Gee Whites feels the force of Storm Babet

Flood barrier during Storm Babet
Dorset Coast Forum

With the Environment Agency not able to get all the blocks in place in time, the lower High Street is covered with debris and partially flooded

Permanent solution unlikely for several more years

The long term plan for Swanage is to install a permanent flood defences along the lower High Street, The Square and by The Mowlem – the town’s areas most vulnerable to flooding.

However a permanent solution is unlikely to be in place until 2025/2026 at the earliest.

Swanage seafront during Storm Babet
Robin Boultwood

Sea foam bubbled from the beach onto Shore Road

Shore Road during Storm Babet
Gerald Dimarco

The north end of Shore Road was affected by flooding although currently there’s no plans to install a flood barrier along this stretch

“Consulting with residents soon”

Sara Parker from Dorset Coast Forum is leading on the public consultation to find out what sort of flood defence, people would like to see in Swanage. She said:

“Storm Babet has given us a real practical illustration of why permanent flood defences are needed in Swanage. The temporary blocks do a reasonable job but they clearly aren’t a long term solution.

“These storms are becoming increasingly regular. Only a few weeks ago we were enjoying mild and gorgeously warm weather and now we have these stormy conditions much earlier in the season than usually predicted.

“A permanent barrier will mean it will always be in place, ready for when the weather changes. However we’ll be consulting with residents soon on how best to achieve that aim – everyone will get their say.”

Emergency sandbags put in place as Storm Babet approaches

Quicker than installing the concrete blocks, sandbags were swiftly placed to protect The Square on Tuesday 17th October 2023

The Square during Storm Babet
J M Alcock

The work to protect The Square appeared effective during Storm Babet on Wednesday 18th October 2023

Emergency sandbags

The installation of all the concrete blocks is time consuming as they are so heavy to withstand the force of the sea that they have to be individually craned into position.

With the threat of Storm Babet approaching and the whole process usually taking several days, emergency sandbags were quickly put in place around The Square on Tuesday 17th October 2023.

On Tuesday 17th October 2023 as Storm Babet approached the Environment Agency worked hard to get as many blocks in place despite the strong winds

Flood barrier during Storm Babet
Dorset Coast Forum

However there was still plenty of work left to do on Wednesday 18th October 2023 with the lower High Street littered with debris overnight due to the force of Storm Babet

“Well done to all the guys from the Environment Agency”

Sara Parker added:

“Well done to all the guys from the Environment Agency for continuing to install the temporary blocks in this challenging weather.

“The reason they do this is not just to protect the local businesses on the seafront from flooding but also to help protect the public from the worst of the weather and the debris – it’s really important work.”

Flood barrier during Storm Babet
Dorset Coast Forum

Lots of blocks were in place along the lower High Street but still more work to be done

Flood barrier during Storm Babet
Dorset Coast Forum

Phew! The blocks are installed just in time by The Mowlem to stop the rising tide going much further

Force of Storm Babet heading east

Storm Babet is moving towards the East Coast of England and Scotland on Thursday 19th October 2023, leaving Purbeck with light showers changing to thunder by late morning.

It’s staying quite mild with a temperature of around 17 degrees celsius in Swanage.

Ferry during Storm Babet
Sandbanks Ferry

The Sandbanks Ferry was suspended from late morning until late afternoon on Wednesday 18th October 2023 due to the exceptionally high tide and Storm Babet

Station Road during Storm Babet
J M Alcock

Storm Babet left Station Road quite empty

Institute Road during Storm Babet
J M Alcock

A single shopper braves the storm in Institute Road

Watch Storm Babet hit Swanage on Wednesday 18th October 2023

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