The council, the flood gates and the weather

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It started, as these things do in this day and age, on social media.

“Wonderful WBC in action! Predicted high tide on South Parade yet expensive gates open!”, wrote a contributor to Next Door.

Followed by an email to our inbox: “Why was the promenade flooded at 12.30pm today? Only saw one gate shut”, asked a reader.

Then a text message from a councillor: “What a farce!”

For those of you who don’t live near the front and didn’t visit it last Monday, there was a high tide – but Wirral Council had taken the decision not to close the gates which allow access to the promenade from the road. By the time the waves were rolling in and the water was lapping up South Parade, it was too late to do anything about it, and a virtual pile on of the council began.

It is true to say the local authority did not exactly cover itself in glory over the construction of the flood wall. The delays, huge overspend (largely paid by the Environment Agency) and controversial design have been well documented by West Kirby Today over the last few years.

The scene on the prom on Monday

But – whisper it quietly – it turns out there is a reasonable and plausible explanation for what happened on Monday. What’s more, we will have to get used to it happening again, from time to time.

Wirral Council told us: “The tidal surge at West Kirby at the noon high tide was higher than initially forecast and by the time we received the flood alert, it was too late to close the majority of the flood gates. This resulted in some standing water pooling on the road surface along parts of South Parade for a short time.”

They added: “While this was unfortunate, it is important to note that, without the new flood defence, South Parade would have had to have been closed completely to traffic as water would have flowed across the whole carriageway.”

As a friend with knowledge of the Dee estuary explained to us, it is not just the high tide level but sudden changes in the speed and direction of the wind which can make a big difference to the level of over topping.

And, when you think about it, a weather forecast is by its very definition only an estimate.

What’s more, it’s just as likely in the near future that conditions will not be as bad as expected, and the council will be accused of closing the gates and shutting down the promenade needlessly. “C’est la vie”, one council employee told us, wearily accepting their fate.

The weather. Turns out it’s not that predictable. Who knew?