Flood risk

This area is at risk of flooding

Floods can happen anywhere at anytime, caused by rising ground water levels, burst water drains, hillside run-off from sudden rain as well as flooding from rivers and the sea.

Cheddar catchment

The River Yeo originates in the Mendip Hills above Cheddar where it flows (much of it underground) in a westerly direction through Cheddar Gorge. The catchment is underlain by a cave system with large ground water influence. Impermeable clays on the top of the Mendip Hills reduce infiltration and can lead to increased runoff with a rapid response to rainfall. When the groundwater levels are high this contributes to significant over land flow through the gorge and Cheddar.

The Great Flood of 1968

On 10 July 1968, a storm swept in from the west and heavy rain fell in a wide band stretching from the Bristol Channel to Lincolnshire. Four inches of rain fell over the Cheddar area. The torrent flowing down the usually dry Cheddar Gorge caused much damage in the village. Cars were swept away and the famous caves were flooded for the first time in living memory.  In the Cave Man restaurant, the doors burst open and a five-foot wave of water tore into the building. A dozen diners and staff had to clamber on tables to escape the torrent.  Further down the Gorge, dozens of shops and homes were flooded and next morning the torrent was still more than three-foot deep. This type of flash flooding is rare but destructive.

Flood planning

There currently is no flood warning service available in Cheddar.  However, we continue to invest in forecasting, warning and awareness raising activities across Somerset.  Working together as a community or group will help you respond quickly and efficiently when flooding occurs.  Understanding the risk of flooding and preparing for it now will help save lives and minimise the damage and distress flooding can cause.  If you are interested in being involved with developing a community flood plan please contact us or your local parish council.

In the event of a flood focus on the safety of you and your family

• Put people before property
• Cooperate with the emergency services if they tell you to evacuate during flooding
• Be prepared to act quickly to get yourself to safety

Flash floods – three steps to safety

1. Be aware – you are likely to have little or no warning
2. Never risk your life – do not walk or drive through flood water
3. Get to safety – understand where to go if you get caught in a flash flood

Step 1 – Be aware

People generally underestimate the risk to their safety.  Flash flooding happens very suddenly.
• It may flood before emergency services arrive
• Rivers may flood to heights above defences
• Watch for signs that a river or stream is about to flood.  It may be fast flowing.  Its water may be discoloured and contain debris.
• Listen for weather warnings on the radio and TV.

Step 2 – Never risk your life

Most injuries and deaths caused during a flash flood happen when people try to cross a watercourse on foot or in a vehicle.  Never underestimate the danger of water.
• It only takes 15cm (six inches) of fast flowing water to knock over an adult
• There may be hidden dangers in the water including rubble, vegetation and exposed drains
• It only takes 60cm (two feet) of water to lift and sweep away a 4×4 car or small lorry.
• Fatalities in vehicles during a flash flood can be statistically very high

Step 3 – Stay safe

Attempting to leave the area may not necessarily be the best thing to do in a flash flood.  If you know where to move to in a flash flood you are more likely to stay safe.
• If possible move to a higher storey
• Stay where you are and wait for instructions from the emergency services
• If you are considering evacuation, think about how close you are to the flooding and if you can move without walking or driving through flood water
• Identify safe routes away from the likely location of flash flooding.

If you are in a vulnerable place or caught outside:
• Seek shelter in the nearest two-storey (or higher) building or go to higher ground
• Call 999 if you are trapped.
For further information call our 24-hour Floodline service on 0845 988 1188 which offers information and advice on all flooding matters or visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood.