Norfolk river levels reach new high following Christmas flooding

Thetford has experienced its worst flooding for decades

Thetford has experienced its worst flooding for decades - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

Gauges along a Norfolk river have reported record levels for more than three decades in the wake of flooding in the region.

Several gauges along the River Thet and Little Ouse showed water levels rose to more than 1.20m over the Christmas period - the highest levels on the river since 1987.

At Abbey Heath, in Thetford, levels stayed above 1.10m between 10.30pm on Boxing Day and 3am on Monday, December 28.

Hundreds of families in Thetford, Brandon and Hockwold were advised to leave their homes on Boxing Day night and find shelter with the threat of flooding "imminent".

Across the region many people have said they have never seen the water levels so high, after a month's worth of rain fell in 24 hours.

Between 6am on December 23 and December 24, 50mm to 60mm of rain was recorded to have fallen in parts of south Norfolk and north Suffolk.

A map showing  the rain totals in Norfolk between 6am on December 23 and December 24.

A map showing  the rain totals in Norfolk between 6am on December 23 and December 24. - Credit: Weatherquest

Dan Holley, from Norwich-based Weatherquest, said because of low evaporation rates and the saturated ground, further rainfall between Christmas Day and December 27 had nowhere to go.

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When compared to past large scale flooding in Norfolk, the meteorologist said it was more similar to flooding at Easter in 1998, rather than the devastating events of 1953.

Mr Holley said: "​The difference between this event and 1953, for example, is this was caused by heavy, persistent rain on saturated ground inland - 1953 was a coastal storm surge that pushed down the North Sea due to a deep area of low pressure and strong northerly winds. 

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"From a meteorological perspective, the December 23 to 24 event is quite similar to the Easter Floods of 1998 when 60mm to 70mm fell in less than 48 hours in parts of south and west Norfolk, and stretched across the Midlands too."

In August, Weatherquest recorded 200mm of rain falling in eight hours in the Illington and Wretham area.

Mr Holley said: "However these are very localised whereas the December event occurred over a much larger area, and on already saturated ground.

"If this amount had fallen in the summer there would probably be some minor flooding, but because it is December when evaporation rates are at their lowest in the whole year, this fell on already saturated ground and had nowhere to go. Essentially the rivers are still responding to the rainfall from 23 to 24. We did receive another 5mm to 10mm on Boxing Day night, but nowhere near as much as earlier in the week."

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