Storm Event

1,000 persons isolated at Selsey following a breach in coastal defences

Severity ? 3


The storm developed over Nova Scotia, Canada on 2nd January 1998 and moved westwards towards the UK. On 4th January, the storm deepened to a central pressure of below 970 mbar. This resulted in strong westerly winds over southern England and the English Channel. The storm later crossed the UK over northern England.

Sea level heights exceeded the 1 in 5 year return period threshold at 1 site within the National Tide Gauge Network. The highest return period water level at Portpatrick was 1 in 10 years.

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


Defences are reported to have badly breached in some locations in Selsey and Medmerry (Sussex). We are unaware of any further specific information concerning the flood pathways during this event.

Receptor and Consequence

The extensive damages and flooding in Portsmouth during this event were described as the worst conditions in 8 years (Ruocco et al. 2011). In Selsey, close to 1,000 persons on the peninsula were left isolated once sea defences here were “ripped” apart, whilst at nearby Medmerry, defences were breached in two points which caused flooding to over 100 chalets and caravans. Some residential properties in Hayling Island avoided inundation having pre-emptively deployed sandbags. Local roads in Southsea (Portsmouth) were closed as a result of overtopping, among other roads flooded in other locations.

A few days after this event, during 7th–8th January, a tornado swept through Selsey and left the town largely devastated with damages totalling several millions (Burrell, 1998).


  1. Ruocco, A.C. et al. 2011. Reconstructing coastal flood occurrence combining sea level and media sources: a case study of the Solent, UK since 1935. Natural Hazards, 59(3), pp.1773–1796. Available at: [Accessed March 27, 2015].
  2. Burrell, I., 1998. The night the Selsey twister wrecked a town. The Independent. London, England. Available at: [Accessed: 11/10/2014]