Storm Event

A lengthy period of heavy rainfall interspersed with widespread coastal flooding along the south coast

Severity ? 4


The storm began forming along the eastern North American seaboard during 24th December, and intensified whilst moving northeast towards the British Isles. Whilst centred over Ireland, the storm reached a central air pressure of approximately 960 mbar on 26th December, and the sharp pressure gradient generated strong south-westerly winds over the English Channel. According to a contemporary source, gusts of 52 knots [27 m/s] were recorded at an unspecified location (NMHMA, 1954). Whilst weakening as it moved northwest, the storm was followed by another low-pressure cell in its wake on 27th December.

We are unaware of any information regarding the sea level conditions during this event. Within the national tide gauge network, only the Newlyn and Harwich tide gauges were operational at the time. At both sites the water level return period was less than 1 year. The event occurred at peak spring tides.

We are unaware of any sources of information describing the wave conditions during this event.


Chesil Beach was reportedly breached in 30 places, and the sea wall at Seaford suffered a breach of about 50 yards [46 m] wide.

Receptor and Consequence

This event occurred during a period of considerable rainfall from 21st-30th November, which brought about extensive flooding across the country (Met Office, 1954; NMHMA, 1954). Widespread coastal flooding occurred at many locations during 26th November along the south coast, including: Lostwithiel, Gunnilsake, Truro, Mevagissey, Perranporth, Portland, Worthing, Teignmouth, Newhaven, Seaford (Zong and Tooley, 2003; Cornwall Council, 2011). About 150 properties were flooded in Cornwall, mostly in Lostwithiel, and approximately 40 ft. [12 m] waves sent water rushing down chimneys in Mevagissey (Cornwall Council, 2011). In Perranporth, the council depot was said to have been under 1.8 m of water. Elsewhere, houses in Lymington were flooded up to 1.2 m, with deep flooding reported from Southampton to Lymington (Ruocco et al., 2011). Properties were apparently flooded in many popular coastal resorts, and thousands of pounds’ worth of damages resulted as beach huts were “splintered to matchwood” in the Isle of Wight (Maryborough Chronicle, 1954). The Newhaven to Seaford coastal road was closed for 10 days following wave damages (The Times, 1954). At Seaford, the sea wall suffered a breach about 50 yards wide, and the road behind was eroded to about halfway. Unsurprisingly, defences were left badly damaged, with Chesil beach breached in about 30 places (West, 2014), and part of the railway platform at Dawlish was lifted from its foundations which limited services to one operational line (The Times, 1954). Also, 50 main roads were reportedly under water (NMHMA, 1954).

Summary Table

Loss of life *
Residential property 150 properties were flooded in Cornwall, and many more in other south coast locations
Evacuation & rescue *
Cost *
Ports *
Transport The railway station at Dawlish was damaged, which disrupted services. The coastal road from Newhaven to Seaford was closed for 10 days.
Energy *
Public services The council depot In Perranporth was under 1.8 m of water
Water & wastewater *
Livestock *
Agricultural land *
Coastal erosion *
Natural environment *
Cultural heritage *
Coastal defences Breaches at Chesil Beach and Seaford

*No known sources of information available


  1. NMHMA, (1954). ‘Extensive flooding in Britain’. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate. Available at:
  2. Met Office, (1954). Monthly Weather Report of the Meteorological Office. Monthly Weather Report, 71(12). Available at:
  3. Zong, Y. and Tooley, M. J. A. (2003). ‘Historical Record of Coastal Floods in Britain: Frequencies and Associated Storm Tracks’. Natural Hazards,29, 13–36. Available at: (Accessed: 5 March 2015).
  4. Cornwall Council, (2011). Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment ANNEX 5 – Chronology of Major Flood Events in Cornwall, Truro.
  5. Ruocco, A. Nicholls, R. J., Haigh, I. D., and Wadey, M. (2011). ‘Reconstructing Coastal Flood Occurrence Combining Sea Level and Media Sources: A case study of the Solent UK since 1935’. Natural Hazards, 59(3): 1773-1796. Available at: (Accessed: 27 March 2015).
  6. Maryborough Chronicle, (1954). ‘Gales abated; Havoc in Britain’. Maryborough Chronicle. Available at:
  7. The Times, (1954). ‘Serious Floods in the West’. Times Newspapers Limited [London, England. The Times Digital Archive.
  8. West, I. W. (2014). Chesil Beach – Hurricanes, Storms, and Storm Surges. Geology of the Wessex Coast of Southern England. Available at: (Accessed: 8 March 2015).