Wet, wet, wet

12 Feb

I was going to go out this morning, but have postponed the pleasure. It is currently raining moderately (in weather person speak), and the wind is gusting (!) to over 40 mph. So, no change there. We have been hit with wave after wave of Atlantic storms. Apparently the Jet Stream is running much further south than it generally does at this time of year. The wind is hitting the south coasts of England and Wales hard and is coming from the south. A stretch of the main rail line to Cornwall was washed away after the sea defences were breached and the line will be closed for several weeks. This is the wettest winter since 1776. The argument about the cause of this freakish weather is almost completely sterile. Climate change arguments rely on patterns, not single events.

Inland, the Somerset Levels have been flooded since the beginning of the year and the water is still rising. The biggest river in Britain, the Severn is rising to near record levels. The Thames, west of London has also filled its flood plain. Commuter towns feeding workers into London are being seriously threatened with floods. The prime Minister has been seen dressed in high vis waterproofs in anxious conversation with rescue workers and the overworked employees of the Environment Agency. Squadies have been filmed filling sandbags and delivering them to threatened householders. Even the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition has been seen out and about stirring up apathy.

There is little else that can be done. Face it, shit happens. Get over it. By wandering about flooded areas, trying to be seen to be doing something, it merely emphasises the Prime Minister’s powerlessness. The government lives on spin, and dies by it too. There are narrow limits to what can be achieved, and it is wrong to claim more power than you actually have. The government’s ratings are slipping further, despite a much trumpeted economic recovery. Public spending in all areas has been cut over the past years. That includes flood prevention measures. There is very little that can be done after the water has risen. Now that the heartland of his voters has been touched by the floods the PM has been galvanised into further action. It is strange how it suddenly becomes more urgent. When it was just the Somerset Levels, it was seen as a pity and a shame. Now the Thames Valley is flooded it has turned into ‘something must be done’.

At the weekend we had the unedifying sight of a minister, Eric Pickles, a man who seems to have more chins than moral values, blaming the Environment Agency for the problems, and especially its head, an ex-Labour minister. The Environment Agency workers, those who were not rationalised out of a job, are getting hardly any sleep and are out in the worst of the weather. Since then the PM has been desperately trying to distance himself from these comments. He was making ‘money no object’ promises in speeches yesterday, but resorted to weasel words when pressed on specifics by a BBC journalist.

As for me, well it is not too bad here. I do live half way up an 800 foot hill. We get the rain after it has fallen on the Welsh mountains, coming down the rivers Wye, Lugg and Arrow. There are flooded areas and some Amber Alerts. There is standing water on the roads and the road surface below is suffering badly. I’ll get myself another cup of coffee and hope the power doesn’t go off.

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