The Severn bore comes – and the levee breaks…
They had the floodlights on to light up the Severn. The bbq was fired up. Surfers’ vans parked up outside. As the rain poured down they waited. Gala night for the Severn Bore pub.
Outside the star of the show, a seething caramel mass of spate. Millions of tons of floodwaters laden with the mud of England charging in the night with unmeasurable force for the Atlantic.
No wave, but like some vast sinewy reptile the entire river simply heaves and swells, left to right flow becomes right to left.
Within an hour – incredibly – the Severn silently rises six metres and hi-vis police and Environment Agency staff pace the car park of the pub as it fills with water.
But last night the river bank berms, the levees, were equal to the Spring Tide, but only just.
It was not a good night for the would-be night surfers. The river is so high there was no wave at Minsterworth.
Not so, lower down at the White Hart at Broad Oak. Brisk early morning trade as hundreds gathered for the 8.35 bore this morning.
Even with three news helicopters you still hear the primeval bore before you see it. Here the Severn is as wide as the London Thames yet the wave today was stunning -anything from three to eight feet. Perhaps more.
Scores of longboarders and kayakers made the most of it, even the sun put in a weak and milky appearance.
But the wave is simply the prelude, drawing behind it an astonishing hour which will raise up this extraordinarily alive river to burst the banks onto the flood – plain meadows after an implausible surge of around 20 feet.
But that’s not all.
We went back upstream to the Severn bore as the surge arrived there in the same shuddering waveless way it had last night. This time with a higher spring tide, it rose over the levee, inundating three cottages. The EA hi-vis lads can do little more than keep onlookers at a safe distance from the cottages.
Inside one of those cottages David Nash splashes through his sitting room to our camera:
“It costs me ten grand every time this happens and insurance is impossible.”
And I then from David the mantra that you hear from so many flood victims here:
“They said when this happened last year it was a one in a century event. This is twice in two years.”
Follow Alex Thomson on Twitter: @alextomo