Wednesday, 6 August 2008

St Swithin’s Day and Flooding

Since I last blogged I’ve celebrated Yorkshire Day (on 1 August) and perhaps more meteorologically relevant St Swithin’s Day on 15 July. I’m sure you know the old saying that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day, then it will rain for 40 days and nights afterwards.

The saying comes from the story of the much loved Bishop of Winchester. As a man of the people he asked to be buried outside, where people could walk on him in the wind and rain – and in 862AD that’s what happened. But juts over 100 years later some monks decided to move St Swithin to a resting place inside the cathedral but the move was delayed by 40 days and nights of rain, supposedly St Swithin himself weeping in displeasure.

I read that the saying has been tested 55 times in the past and on none of the occasions when it rained on 15 July did it continue to rain for the next 40 days and nights – but it makes a nice story.

The day after St Swithin’s Day I was in London at a dinner with Sir Michael Pitt and Lord Chris Smith (the new Chairman of the Environment Agency), very appropriately talking about flooding, and more precisely the implementation of the recommendations from Sir Michael’s report on the floods of 2007. The report is very well considered and, I think, one of the best reviews for Government I have seen in a long while and stands a real chance of making a difference to the management of flood risk in the UK and importantly the effect on people’s lives and property.

There’s one part in particular that I think is well overdue, and that’s the greater coming together of our weather and flood prediction work with the Environment Agency and the Met Office working more closely on both their research and operational programmes – potentially through a joint centre.

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