Storm Event

High water levels at Aberdeen, and heavy seas damage the Dawlish Railway in southwest England

Severity ? 3


The storm developed off the US northeast on 7th February 1974 and moved northeast towards the UK. On 10th February, as the storm travelled between Ireland and Iceland, it combined with, and was enhanced by, a small low-pressure system located to the west of Iceland. The central pressure deepened to about 950 mbar. On 11th February the storm slowly moved northeast, before turning and travelling west to the northeast of Iceland.

The storm generated a skew surge of more than 0.5 m in the Bristol Channel and along the northern and central coast of the North Sea. Water levels exceeded the 1 in 5-year return level at two sites, Milford Haven and Aberdeen. The return period water level was 5 years at Milford Haven and 6 years at Aberdeen. The skew surge at Aberdeen was 0.67 m. The event occurred 2 days after peak spring tides.

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


We are unaware of information regarding the flood pathways for this event, although notable defence failures are implied in descriptions of this event.

Receptor and Consequence

Residential properties and many local roads were flooded in locations across the south and southeast coasts during this event, including Dawlish, Christchurch, Folkstone, Hayling Island, Ryde, Wallington, Fareham, Southsea and in the Severn Valley (Zong and Tooley, 2003; Ruocco et al., 2011). Part of the Dawlish railway station was demolished by waves, disrupting the Exeter-to-Penzance line (Met Office, 1974). The flooding in Plymouth was the worst in living memory (West, 2014). The Times (1974) report the highest tides of the century, which left 40 Devon villages impacted. This event was also associated with flooding at Perranporth, Cornwall (Haigh et al., 2015).

Cornwall Council (2011) describe how throughout February 1974 (no specific dates mentioned) there was flooding in several locations across Cornwall due to a combination of high sea levels and heavy rainfall. Multiple properties were flooded: 37 in Millbrook, 40 in Par and 10 in St Blazey.

Summary Table

Loss of life *
Residential property Properties were flooded in locations across the south and southeast coasts
Evacuation & Rescue *
Cost *
Ports *
Transport The railway station at Dawlish was partially destroyed and roads were flooded in locations across the south and southeast coasts
Energy *
Public services *
Water & wastewater *
Livestock *
Agricultural land *
Coastal erosion *
Natural environment *
Cultural heritage *
Coastal defences *

*No known sources of information available


  1. 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).
  2. 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).
  3. Met Office, (1974). Monthly Weather Report of the Meteorological Office. Monthly Weather Report, 91(2). Available at:
  4. 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).
  5. The Times, (1974). ‘Boy dies as gust blows wall on to pupils’. Times Newspapers Limited [London, England]. The Times Digital Archive
  6. Haigh, I. D., Wadey, M. P., Gallop, S. L., Loehr, H., Nicholls, R. J., Horsburgh, K., Brown, J. M., and Bradshaw, E., (2015). ‘A user-friendly database of coastal flooding in the United Kingdom from 1915–2014’. Scientific Data, 2, p.150021. Available at:
  7. Cornwall Council, (2011). Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment ANNEX 5 – Chronology of Major Flood Events in Cornwall, Truro