The killing storm of 2005: a tragedy 10 years on

On 11th January 2005, a storm with hurricane force winds tore through the Hebrides Islands. Tragedy struck when a family of 5 were swept away while driving across a causeway fleeing for safety, causing the highest number of fatalities during a single coastal flooding event since the east coast disaster of 1953.

10 years on, in an article published by The Guardian, residents of South Uist speak of the way life has changed living on the island.

The repairs to damaged infrastructure including roads, causeways, and a school is estimated to be between £15m to £20m.

The true cost is likely to be much, however, with many homes having suffered from flood and wind damage. The storm has also left a much longer-lasting impact on peoples’ sense of security, having sparked a strong sense of vulnerability to communities around Uist.

“There is a loss of confidence in travelling in the evening, between islands especially, if there are storms forecast”, describes David Muir – an island resident. “People are conscious of what happened in 2005, and what could happen to them. Community events, ceilidhs in village halls, are often poorly attended or cancelled because people are worried about going out. This was once considered a very safe place to live, but there’s this threat from the sea now”.

The longer-term, indirect impacts of floods on the health and well-being of individuals and communities, the so-called “intangible” impacts of flooding, are difficult to assess but can be very significant, particularly in small, remote communities such as those in the Hebrides.

Here at SurgeWatch we are currently working on developing a new approach to ranking the events in the SurgeWatch database to better consider these type of impacts.