Flooding is a natural process which can happen at any time in a wide variety of locations across Ireland. Assets at risk from flooding can include housing, public infrastructure, commercial property and industrial enterprises. Understanding flood risk is an essential step in managing the associated impacts and making informed decisions.
There are two major causes of flooding:
- Coastal Flooding; is caused by higher sea levels than normal, largely as a result of a storm surge. It is usually influenced by a combination of high tide levels, high winds and wave action. Coastal flooding can be highly unpredictable and cause major damage in a very short period of time.
- Inland Flooding; is caused by prolonged and/or intense rainfall and includes a number of different types.
- Overland Flow – this occurs when the amount of rainfall exceeds the capacity of the ground to absorb it. The excess water flows overland creating ponds in hollow and low lying areas. Although this type of flooding does cause damage, the damage tends to be minor.
- River Flooding – occurs when the capacity of the river is exceeded or a channel is blocked or restricted. The water spills out from the channel into the surrounding flood plain. Anyone living in a flood plain will be familiar with this type of flooding. Damage tends to be moderate in most river flooding where warnings have been issued. If caught off guard, major loss may occur.
- Flooding from artificial drainage systems – When the flow entering an urban drainage system exceeds its capacity or becomes blocked, the surrounding streets become flooded. During the summers of 2007 and 2008 this type of flooding was evident in Dublin, Cork and Galway causing major disruption and damage to commercial and residential property. This is a growing problem and has recently been recognised as a major source of flooding risk.
- Groundwater Flooding – Occurs when the level of water stored in the ground rises as a result of prolonged rainfall. The capacity of the underground reservoir is exceeded and the water seems to rise up from the ground. This type of flooding tends to be highly localised and generally results in significant damage to property.
- Esturial Flooding – Occurs due to a combination of tidal and fluvial flows, rivers and the sea. A combination of a high flow and a high tide will force water back upstream, increasing water levels and leading to a river bursting its banks. In Ireland all major cities are situated where the river meets the sea and all have, at one time or another, experienced numerous floods of this nature.
The impact of flooding on people and property is immense. The ability of people to respond and recover from a flood can vary. The old and the ill are less able to cope with floods than others and are more prone to death or serious injury.
Flooding also causes severe damage to properties. Floodwater will destroy internal finishes, contents and electrical services and possibly cause structural damage. Reoccupation of a flooded property can often take up to a year. Sea water flooding can cause additional damage due to its corrosive properties.
Sean Cleary, of Cleary’s Loss Assessors advises that you always heed flood warnings, ensure that you have cover in place on your policy for flooding and revise your sums insured annually. If you do experience flooding, appoint an independent loss assessor to settle your insurance claim on your behalf.