16 August 2016
The Lynmouth flood disaster took place on 16 August 1952
On this day in history, 1952: 34 people in the Devon village of Lynmouth died when the rivers East Lyn and West Lyn burst their banks and an avalanche of flood water, boulders and trees descended on the high street, destroying dwellings in its wake. The flooding was caused by the nine inches of rainfall that had poured out of the skies of England in the preceding 24 hours.
The flood ruined 100 houses, and washed 38 cars out to sea. Floodwater having undermined the lighthouse, it collapsed into the sea the next day.
Conspiracy theories have suggested that the flood was caused by ‘cloud-making’ strategies by the Royal Air Force – for instance, by spraying salt into the air to create rainfall. This theory has been soundly rejected, and it is worth noting that floods such as the Lynmouth 1952 have occurred in the area in earlier times, for instance in the 17th and 18th centuries.
If you’re interested in the weather that your ancestors might have experienced, read about the historic records of the Met Office at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/about/archives and about the holdings of the National Meteorological Library and Archives that go back to the 1730s at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/library/archive/collections.
Watch contemporary BBC footage of the 1952 flood below: