AFTER the battering Manchester and Salford took from Storm Ophelia and Brian, the flood defences of the River Irwell remain poised and ready for the predictable attack of UK winter storms.

The howling gales and relentless drum upon rain-lashed windows are probably still fresh in our memories when looking back on Storms Ophelia and Brian. With winter on its way, it seems likely that these tempests will be overshadowed by what is inevitably to come.

Storm Ophelia hit the British Isles on Monday 16th October of this year, causing widespread disruption. The winds, which reached nearly 100mph damaged electricity networks and delayed train services across the country.

Following in close succession, Storm Brian reared his ugly head on Saturday 21st October. With winds causing similar damage leaving a hideous floating pile of debris in the Salford Quays.

Though floating debris is the least of a Salfordian’s troubles. Irwell Valley is among the most likely inland flood risk areas in England.

As recently as 2008, the River Irwell overflowed to an extent that it almost flooded the Lowry Hotel on Chapel Wharf.

This flooding, understandably, presents some problems as stated by Graham Lymbery, a Sefton based representative of the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC) , who in an interview regarding coastal and flood defences in the North-West, recalled the devastation of the Cumbrian floods in 2013.

He said: “If you have a house that is flooded you can be at least six months out of your home, if not longer. There are cases where people have been out of their homes for up to two years before they were able to get back in.

With 2017 set to be the most storm ridden year on record, what stands between our homes and these formidable gales, with their destructive floodwaters?

Courtesy of its tendency to overflow, the Irwell actually possess some flood defences in the form of three metre raised embankments and a 70 acre flood basin to the north of the long-vacant Castle Irwell Student Village.

Construction of these defences began back in March 2015 and cost approximately £12 million with additional improvements made to the city’s drainage system.

With six more storms predicted to strike over winter, these defences will not go without thorough testing over the next few months.

The River Irwell
The River Irwell

So, are flood defences in Manchester and Salford prepared for the annual UK winter storms, in the aftermath of Ophelia and Brian?

Yes, all that can be done by RFCC officials, like Mr Lymbery, and organisations such as the Environment Agency is being done but, due to the unpredictable and volatile nature of storms, there are scenarios and elements that no one can prepare for.

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