Storm Event

The second greater than 100-year water level at Portpatrick (Scotland) since January 1991, and substantial flooding and coastal damage hits the Isle of Man

Severity ? 4


The storm developed southeast of Nova Scotia, Canada on 30th January 2002 and moved northeastwards towards the UK. On 1st February the storm approached Ireland and combined with, and was enhanced by, another low-pressure system located south of Iceland. The storm then continued with a north-westerly track, where the central pressure dropped to below 930 mbar (Burt, 2007), and then the storm travelled north-eastwards just south of Iceland, before coming back on itself. At Ronaldsway (Isle of Man), the hourly wind speed reached nearly 44 knots [23 m/s], gusts of 61 knots [31 m/s].

The storm generated a skew surge of between 0.75 m and 1.25 m at many sites from the Bristol Channel around to Aberdeen. Water levels exceeded the 1 in 5 year return level at 12 sites in the Irish Sea and Scotland. The highest return period water level was at Portpatrick and was 113 years. The next largest return period of 1 in 92 years was at Holyhead. The highest skew surge was at Heysham and was 1.08 m. At Liverpool the skew surge was 0.94 m.

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


There are reports of overtopping around the Solent, Hampshire in addition to failed defences in the Isle of Man and Cornwall.

Receptor and Consequence

This event was associated with an “exceptional” storm surges along the south and west coasts, causing “extensive” coastal flooding (Eden, 2008). The most serious flooding reported was along the east and south coasts of Ireland and the west coast of the UK (Wang et al. 2008). It is a ‘standout’ event for several towns on the Isle of Man, and there was significant damage to coastal defences (IOMG, 2016). Estimated damage costs (on the Isle of Man) exceeded £8 million (Acclimatise, 2006). Flood warnings were issued across Wales and England (although these were also due to heavy rainfall) and there are reports of flooding on the west coast of England and Wales. Images of overtopping are available for Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria (Southlakes, 2015). Newspaper reports described overtopping and flooding around the Solent, Hampshire with affected areas including Langstone, Southsea, and Hayling Island (Ruocco et al. 2011). Shingle was displaced in places making some local roads impassable. In Cornwall, flooding was experienced at many locations including Sladebridge on the north coast and on the south coast at Mevagissey, Polkerris, Fowey, Golant, Lerryn and Lostwithiel, Cremyll and Calstock (Cornwall Council, 2011).

A man died when washed from Brighton Pier (south coast) by large waves (BBC, 2002). Note that this unfortunate fatality is not considered here a flood-related death.


Affected Sites

Name Return Period ? Water Level ? Tide ? Skew Surge ? Date ?
PORTPATRICK 113 5.16 4.4 0.76 1st Feb 2002 14:00
HOLYHEAD 92 6.85 6.12 0.73 1st Feb 2002 12:45
PORT ERIN 33 6.52 5.73 0.79 1st Feb 2002 13:45
HEYSHAM 28 11.35 10.27 1.07 1st Feb 2002 13:45
WORKINGTON 17 9.72 8.94 0.77 1st Feb 2002 13:45
LLANDUDNO 17 8.9 8.23 0.66 1st Feb 2002 13:15
LERWICK 9 2.9 2.27 0.62 2nd Feb 2002 13:45
MILLPORT 8 4.62 3.93 0.69 1st Feb 2002 15:00
FISHGUARD 7 5.69 5.37 0.32 1st Feb 2002 09:30
WICK 6 4.27 3.56 0.71 2nd Feb 2002 02:15
LIVERPOOL 5 10.68 9.74 0.94 1st Feb 2002 13:30
MILFORD HAVEN 5 8.02 7.49 0.53 1st Feb 2002 08:30


  1. Burt, S., 2007. The Lowest of the Lows… extremes of barometric pressure in the British Isles, part 1–the deepest depressions. Weather, 62, pp.4–14
  2. Eden, P., 2008. Great British Weather Disasters, London: Continuum UK.
  3. Wang, S., McGrath, R., Hanafin, J., Lynch, P., Semmler, T. & Nolan, P., 2008. The impact of climate change on storm surges over Irish waters. Ocean Modelling, 25, pp.83–94
  4. IOMG, 2016. Tidal flooding and storm surges. Available at: [Accessed September 21, 2015]
  5. Acclimatise, 2006. The Isle of Man Climate Change Scoping Study Technical Paper 5 Costing the impacts of climate change: estimated costs of three historic weather events, Southwell. Available at:
  6. Southlakes, 2015. Coast Road, Rampside and Roa Island includes the Villages Leece, Gleaston etc. Southlakes. Available at: [Accessed October 20, 2015]
  7. 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].
  8. Cornwall Council, 2011. Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment ANNEX 5 – Chronology of Major Flood Events in Cornwall, Truro.
  9. BBC, 2002. Fierce storms batter Britain. BBC News. Available at: [Accessed October 11, 2015].