I once walked the lonely and beautiful Honister Pass with my father, as we took a long hike down Newlands Valley through Buttermere and Borrowdale, a treasured time with a now deceased parent. It was a dry summer day, but we knew the reputation of the place for rain, and in recent years the area has exceeded all the worst expectations. The village at the foot of the pass, Seathwaite, is known as England's rainiest place, and a year or so ago it recorded 31.6 centimetres in a day, but yesterday exceeded this unwanted record, with the rain at Honister pouring 34.6 centmetres in 48 hours on the lonely road through the hills. The water cascaded down both sides of the pass, on one side descending to lake Buttermere, and the other down to lake Derwentwater in Borrowdale, where the town of Keswick, near the isthmus between Derwentwater and Veronica's beloved Bassenthwaite, suffered some flooding.
But Keswick was not the most badly hit. Down to the south in Kendal parts of the town were flooded, and an elderly man was swept to his death in the swollen river Kent. Many families had to be evacuated from their homes,power was lost, and the local member of parliament, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, had to escape from his flooded and now to be written off car, leading four children to safety in the process. But north of this, the river Eden burst its banks and overflowed into the town of Carlisle, swollen with water that had rolled off the Pennine hills.Sadly, even though the government had improved flood defences in the town after flooding two or three years ago, the new defences were overwhelmed in places, such was the severity of the rain. Sixty thousand homes across the North West lost power as the electricity failed.
But the rest of Britain did not escape the attack. In London a ninety year old man was blown into the path of a bus to become the first fatality of the storm. In Southern Scotland a whole side of a street crumbled into a river. And I was anxious, but later relieved, as I knew that in Wales my son-in-law was driving home from a business trip through the storm to Anglesey, only an hour's drive across the Lleyn Peninsula, lovely by day, but dark and lonely in a storm at night. Sometimes if there is a bad storm the police shut the bridges to the Isle of Anglesey, so I did not want him stuck overnight in a car waiting at the bridge. But he reached home safe, but tired without delay.The police are not being unreasonable in shutting the two bridges, as such as the strength of the wind across the Menai straits that lorries have been known to topple, and cars and pedestrians could be blown into the metal framework.
The problem is that climate change predictions are that there will be an increase in Winter storms in North West Britain,and we are seeing it now. The rainfall in winter is growing heavier, fueled by the temperature rise in the Atlantic, just as this heat fuels hurricanes in North America. Climate change is real, dangerous, expensive and happening. I know that storms of great severity happen elsewhere in the world, and we cannot equal America's hurricanes, but we are not on a continent, but a crowded island, and if certain parts suffer economic damage, the whole island will suffer; and there is nowhere to run to.