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August 1999 

Freak Rainstorm hits Windsor,
Disrupts Traffic, Floods Basements

Late in the morning of August 8th 1999, some 3 inches of rain fell in the Windsor area. It had been raining for much of the morning but at around midday the heavens really opened and torrential rain fell for a good hour. In these circumstances the normal surface water drains cannot cope, and, coupled with obstruction by some premature leaf fall and debris following a long dry spell, water backed up around gullies throughout the town and especially at the bottom of inclines, where water poured down to the lowest levels it could find.

Local services were overwhelmed by calls for assistance and additional fire engines were called in from Ascot, Bracknell, Maidenhead, Langley and Cookham to help with the pumping out of flooded cellars and basements. Traffic was severely disrupted throughout the area as lakes formed across main roads..

King Edward Court Car Park was flooded at ground level to a depth of perhaps a foot in places, and not quite to the door handles of cars as was reported (please let us know if you know better!), with other private properties also badly affected.

In Clarence Road a property that had originally been built with a garage beneath, now converted to a living area due to the steep access, was badly affected, with a fire engine in attendance to pump out the flood water.

In the Green Lane/Vansittart Road underpass, beneath Goslar Way, water rose to a depth of around one foot, much to the amusement of children later in the day as they rode their bikes through it. Fortunately the murals being painted that week by Oakbridge Day Centre users were not damaged.

Elsewhere in Windsor similar stories were being told of ruined carpets and furniture but the experts were not totally sympathetic. When residents convert basements to living areas, especially in times of severe weather, they must expect trouble. Although the Borough does all it can to avoid the effects of these freak weather conditions, it is a fact of life that when the system is overloaded the water has to go somewhere, to the lowest point it can find, and that means cellars, basements and into streams and ditches which will rise inexorably until the deluge stops. In order to absorb these huge amounts of freak rain every sewer would need to be enlarged substantially at huge cost and leading to considerable disruption.

Residents can assist by ensuring that there are no obstructions in nearby streams and ditches, no garden debris or dumped rubbish for example damming the flow of water. If they want to convert their basements they must understand that in freak conditions there is always the chance of water damage and they should be ready to move valuable items out of the reach of the water. There are also comparatively inexpensive 'sump pumps' available that will cut in at the first sign of trouble. They do not cost a great deal of money compared with the decorations and furnishings, and it is the first, rather than the last thing that anyone considering a basement conversion should allow for. An installation such as this would save much heartache but professional installation is required and thought given to where the pump is actually going to put the water!

For prospective purchasers of a house, it is always worth looking into the history of a property and considering the possibility of flood damage regardless of its location.

Further Reading

The Storm of October 2000

The Flood Relief Scheme - Maidenhead to Windsor

The Floods of 1947

The Great Freeze of 1963

Diary Index

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