Boscastle Flood 2004

The Boscastle Flood 2004

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On the 16th August 2004 the picturesque tourist village of Boscastle on the North Cornish coast experienced a devastating flash flood, later described by the Environment Agency as 'among the most extreme ever recorded in Britain.'

Occurring, bizarrely, fifty-two years to the day after the famous Lynmouth floods, which killed thirty-five people, the Boscastle flood destroyed six buildings, swept fifty cars out to sea, broke up several roads and caused more than sixty people to have to be airlifted to safety by seven hastily-scrambled rescue helicopters.

Boscastle Harbour

Boscastle is the only natural harbour for twenty miles and sits in a deep coomb where two valleys, formed by the rivers Valency and Jordan, meet. On this particular day a rare collision of winds, caused by a combination of surface warming over the sea and a wet southerly air flow, led to the formation of ten kilometer-high anvil-shaped thunder clouds both on the coast and inland over Bodmin Moor. In the middle of the afternoon the deeply unstable clouds burst, giving rise to intense downpours of up to five inches of rain in the space of just a few hours. Because the ground was already saturated from previous storms, the water remained on the surface and was funnelled down the steep river valley to Boscastle, causing a ten foot wall of water to hurtle down the main street.

Although, miraculously, nobody was badly injured, the destruction was vast. When the waters receded the following day the streets were strewn with cars, boulders and uprooted trees, shops were torn in half and many houses were uninhabitable.

Boscastle flood aftermath
The aftermath

Ninety percent of Boscastle's economy depends on tourism and was badly affected by the floods, which happened right in the middle of the school summer holidays. More than half of the village's family-run B&Bs were forced to close and half of the artefacts belonging to the village's famous Museum of Witchcraft were lost.

It took nearly a year before the village was able to welcome visitors once more, with an official reopening ceremony on May 1st 2005. Much work remained to be done, however, including replacing a one hundred-year-old stone bridge, which did not happen until late 2007. Today, Boscastle has returned to its former magical self, largely thanks to the National Trust, who own the medieval harbour and surrounding coastline and played a leading role in the village's reconstruction.