Fife Flooding - August, 2008

Environment, Enterprise & Transportation Committee
9 October 2008
Agenda Item No 14
This summer the weather has been particularly wet with regular cloud cover and
frequent showers and heavy rain. As a result, watercourse levels are much higher
than normal for this time of year and many areas of ground are wet and saturated.
During early/mid August, Fife suffered two periods of intense rainfall that caused
flooding events which affected a number of roads and communities. The flooding
arising from the severe weather led to the temporary closure of many roads, minor
landslips, burns and streams bursting their banks and the flooding of a small
number of properties and areas of land.
The purpose of this report is to provide committee with an overview of the flooding
events, the emergency response service and some ongoing follow-up actions and
agree to the issue of a Guidance Note on Roles and Responsibilities for Flooding
Issues in Fife.
Option Appraisal
There were two periods of extreme rainfall during August 2008, the first period
occurred between Friday 8th and Sunday 10th with a subsequent severe period of
rainfall overnight from Tuesday 12th into the morning of Wednesday 13th.
Whilst the heavy storms affected parts of neighbouring areas such as, Perth &
Kinross, Angus and Dundee it was Fife that bore the brunt of the torrential rain. In
particular, North East Fife was more severely affected by the intense downpours
than either Mid Fife or South Fife.
To exemplify the scale of the problem, the rainfall recorded at Westhall Farm, 2
miles west of Cupar during August was 211.1 millimetres (mm). This is the highest
level recorded in any month for 60 years with the previous high being 199.1
millimetres in January 1993. Whilst Fife’s average monthly level of rainfall for
August is around 63 mm, we experienced falls of 32mm-55mm in parts of Fife
between Friday 8th and Sunday 10th and subsequently 30mm-51mm overnight from
Tuesday 12th into the morning of Wednesday 13th. This level of overnight rainfall is
most exceptional and in conjunction with the already waterlogged ground caused a
variety of flooding problems across Fife.
Monitoring and Evaluation
During the weekend (9th & 10th), 122 flooding reports were reported for attention by
Transportation Services with a further 118 calls to the Fife Fire & Rescue Service
999 number. These flooding reports were dealt with by Transportation Services
standby personnel and crews from Fife Fire and Rescue Service and the Police.
The most common event related to 15 roads being closed (or passable with care)
during the period. In addition some of the roads were affected by damage to the
road surface, minor landslips or flood debris washed down from adjacent hills and
farm land. The worst areas of flooding were in north east fife and mid fife with south
fife escaping the more serious downpours.
A number of watercourses across the kingdom burst their banks including the
Scoonie Burn, Leven, the Mapsie Burn, Falkland, Ceres Burn, Ceres and the
Kinness Burn, St Andrews. Some properties at Dubbieside, Lower Methil, parts of
Glenrothes, Scoonie Drive Leven and close to the M90/A90 Rosyth, suffered some
minor flooding.
The full tidy-up operation arising from the weekend flooding was not yet completed
when the area was again subject to a further deluge of torrential rain overnight on
12th – 13th August. On this occasion, the Howe of Fife was the most affected area.
Once again a full response to the event was provided by Council Services standby
personnel and emergency services crews with the clearance of flooded roads and
watercourse grills, pumping water from properties, providing sand bags and helping
to stop water entering properties. This second downfall exacerbated the problems
arising from the previous weekend deluge and many more roads were again
temporarily closed due to flooding and damaged road surfaces.
On this occasion there were even more severe consequences for some properties
with exceptional flash flooding situations at Freuchie Mill, Freuchie where 12
houses were badly flooded and flooding to businesses and homes in the Burnside
area of Cupar where the Lady Burn burst its banks.
Resource and Policy Implications
The aftermath of the flooding is still being fully assessed with the involvement of
different agencies and Council Services as appropriate and action plans developed
where Transportation Services is responsible for any follow-up action. In the main,
where present, the road drainage systems were able to cope with the exceptional
rainfall apart from some localised areas where the systems were overwhelmed by
the continuous heavy flow of water and associated debris. This was particularly the
case in some locations due to the substantial water run-off and debris onto the road
network from adjacent arable land and higher ground.
However, it must be stressed that a significant proportion (approx 80%) of Fife’s
rural road network does not have positive drainage systems (ie pipes, gulleys etc).
The Transportation Services costs relating to the immediate flooding response
during 8th – 15th August is around £150,000. In addition there are many follow up
actions required to reinstate damaged roads, footways, choked gullies, damaged
pipes and culverts. In particular this type of intense rainfall and run-off damages the
road network and increases the number of potholes requiring attention. Estimates
are still being compiled, however it is assessed that these follow-up repairs will cost
a further £300,000. The available annual budget for flooding response has already
been exceeded with the autumn and winter periods still to come.
Some of the problems relate to locations where the drainage systems were
overwhelmed. In particular this related to some of the combined sewers which are
the responsibility of Scottish Water. Investigations are ongoing at many of these
locations using a CCTV system and specialised jetting machines. The findings of
these surveys will be discussed with Scottish Water.
There are a couple of factors relating to rural locations that can worsen the effects
of heavy rainfall. Firstly this relates to the run-off from higher ground/arable land
onto the public road and secondly, the level of maintenance to ditches and outfalls
in private property which is downstream from the road drainage system. In many
cases the general public and property owners do not understand or indeed wish to
understand their riparian responsibilities.
Similarly some property owners often don’t consider the need for insurance to cover
against flood damage until too late. Cases of old carpets, shopping trolleys and
household furniture / appliances etc being found in watercourses are still all too
common. In addition to their negative environmental effects, these items which have
been dumped without thought can block grills, choke culverts and exacerbate an
already difficult situation.
An updated Guidance Note on Roles and Responsibilities for Flooding Issues in
Fife is attached as an appendix to this report. This document clarifies the legislative
responsibilities of the Council and others for flooding issues and it is proposed that
this document is loaded on FISH and shared with all councillors as an aide memoir
and with various residents and community groups.
Transportation Services carries out regular routine maintenance of the road
drainage systems and implements a regime of inspections and minor maintenance
to a number of watercourses as identified in the Fife Flood Prevention Report 2007.
These actions help to mitigate the effects of rainfall however the network can
neither contain nor deal with such continuous periods of heavy rain and intense
localised downpours as experienced in early/mid August.
Post Flooding Review
During a very testing time the efforts and coordination between the emergency
services (Police and Fife Fire & Rescue) and Fife Council Services (Transportation,
Environmental and Parks & Countryside) was extremely good.
Issues arose regarding communication with the Council’s Contact Centre and the
Council Services Emergency Support Line (CSESL) during the flooding emergency.
This related to difficulties managing the number of incoming calls, communication
problems between operational employees/supervisors and CSESL staff and
improving the way in which up to date information about road closures etc is
provided to the media.
These areas have been subject to a number of de-brief meetings with appropriate
services which have led to a review and improvement of some processes,
advertising of contact numbers, improvements to communication links and
information sharing.
Some problems with the capacity of watercourses and in particular culverted
watercourses were a common feature. This relates to the relative age of the
inherited infrastructure which was never designed to cope with the level of storm
events that is now required for modern day equivalents. Watercourses are subject
to ongoing review as detailed in the Fife Flood Prevention Report.
It is recommended that the Committee:
Note the contents of the report and agree to issue of the Guidance Note on
Roles and Responsibilities for Flooding Issues in Fife as detailed in para 4.6
of this report.
Dr Bob McLellan
Author: Derek Crowe
Senior Manager Roads & Engineering Services
Tel. 08451 55 55 55 Ext 450441
Transportation Services
County Buildings
9 September 2008