Heavy rain overnight on 16th March resulted in the River Wear rising to 2.36m just after 9pm. This was a rise of 1.8m in less than 12 hours. The river was a raging torrent, lapping over riverside paths. The river also carried lots of broken tree branches and wood downstream, snagging on bridges and the weirs further around ‘the loop’.
My weather station in Gilesgate only recorded 13mm of rain on the 16th, so the rainfall must have been much heavier in the hills that feed the River Wear in the previous day.
The River Wear has been much higher than this in the past, but this episode was remarkable because of the rate of rise.
You can check the river level in Durham at any time by following the link on the Useful Weather Links page here
Click below to see a video from 16th March 2019 as we walked the riverside paths.
This was a very wet day, but most of the rainfall fell after 8pm on 22nd. We were travelling back home and had to pull the car over in Tudhoe as we couldn’t make out where the road was!
Rainfall became absolutely torrential and 49.3mm was recorded in about 3 hours by the rain guage in Gilesgate. The Durham University met station recorded 39.2mm, which they say is the 50th wettest day ever recorded in Durham since 1850.
From Tim Burt:
November was warmer than average, but not exceptionally so. All three ‘mean’ measures were above average. Even so, the number of ground frosts (17) was also above average. It would have been a dry month too, except for the exceptional downpour on 22nd when a total of 38.2mm was recorded, the equal 58th wettest day on record at Durham since 1850. If we use the ‘meteorological day’ (starting 09:00), then the total was 39.2mm, equal to the total on 28th July 2013, the 50th equal wettest day on record and thereby the equal wettest day since 16th April 2005. There were some exceptional hourly intensities: 9.4mm in the hour ending 20:00 GMT; 9.2mm in the hour ending 22:00 GMT and 7.2mm in the hour ending 23:00 GMT. The number of rain days (12) was well below average (18). It was a sunny month, the sunniest November since 2013 and the 7th sunniest November at Durham since 1882.
May felt disappointing although in fact mean air temperature was just a little above average; daytime temperatures were just a little above average and night-time temperatures just a little below. Rainfall was well above average so that the running 12-month total remained above 1000mm for the 6th month in a row, a remarkable sequence. There were heavy falls on the 15th (21.4mm) and especially on the 18th (40.8mm), the latter causing extensive flooding in the Durham area. Rainfall intensity was extraordinary on the morning of the 18th with 12.2mm in one hour (08:00 – 09:00 BST) and 10.2mm the next hour.
Professor Tim Burt
Department of Geography
The very wet Summer of 2012 continued into Autumn. The river burst it’s banks again in the city. This red car (Ford Ka) became quite famous as it bobbed about in front of the new Radisson Hotel (due to open a couple of months after this photo was taken).
A view of the flood from the Passport Office/National Savings Building. The red car can just be seen in the left mid-distance.
There was exceptionally heavy rainfall and flooding towards the end of the month. The rainfall was spread across two days, with 47.4mm recorded on the 24th and 40.8mm on the 25th. The former is the 27th wettest day on record at Durham since 1850 and the latter was the 41st wettest. Looking at 2-day totals, the combined total of 88.2mm is the 5th highest 2-day total since 1850, although well less than the record holder, 10th / 11th September 1976 when a total of 120.1mm was recorded. The heaviest rain fell late on the evening of the 24th when 16mm fell in 3 hours. It was the wettest September since 1976 and the 7th wettest on record.
Flooding at The Honest Lawyer, Croxdale in the phenomenally wet summer of 2012. The River Browney, a tributary of the Wear, snakes past the hotel and is prone to flooding. Flood prevention here has stopped things getting as bad as previous years. The hotel has been flooded out on many occasions in the past (see photo below).
June was particularly poor. There were 3 days in the month with > 20 mm of rain. It was the 3rd wettest June since 1850 in Durham.
Current River Level at Sunderland Bridge.
You can view the current level of the River Wear at Sunderland Bridge here.
Some of the worst flooding in recent years was experienced in Durham during the very wet July of 2009. The River Wear burst it’s banks in the city and riverside businesses were inundated after more than 2” of rain fell in one day (64.2mm was recorded on the 17th), on top of already saturated ground.
The most extraordinary weather episode in July occurred on the 17th when very high rainfall caused severe flooding in Durham; the University’s Maiden Castle sports centre was inundated for only the 3rd time since being built in the early 1960s. The rain began on the 16th with a fall of 11.6mm in one hour (1400 – 1500 GMT): altogether 15mm fell that day. A total of 64.2mm was recorded on the 17th; there were only 3 hours that were completely dry. Remarkably, 6.6mm fell between 1400 and 1500 GMT and 9.2mm in the next hour. The highest gust of the month was recorded during this period. 17th July 2009 is the 6th wettest day on record at Durham since 1850. The last time this total was exceeded was 25th August 1986 when 69.2mm fell.
The wettest day on record at Durham is 11th September 1976 with 87.8mm. All this rain meant the 4th wettest July on record, easily beating last year (134mm), but still exceeded by 1930 (183.9mm), 1867 (184.9mm) and 1888 (206.6mm). It was the 17th wettest month on record since 1850. Interestingly, 8 of these 17 have been in summer, 4 in autumn and five in winter, none in spring; this reflects the fact that Durham tends to have wet summers (marginally wetter than autumn) with a tendency to heavy falls of rain. As a result, all long-term rainfall totals are now well above average again.
In terms of temperature, July (26.8°C) was an unexceptional month, a little above average in all respects; only 13 days had a maximum above 20°C. The absolute maximum on the 1st was the highest since 2006, but thereafter temperatures were not exceptional. The absolute minimum was the highest since 2004.
Professor Tim Burt
Department of Geography
In Ferryhill, I recorded 43.6mm of rain on 17th.
Here’s a view of The Half Moon Beer Garden, submerged in floodwater
The Grand Canyon of Durham
This is the scene just to the East of Houghall College where floodwater tore a canyon in a field in it’s rush to join the River Wear. It is up to 100ft across, 15ft deep and 200 yards long. It is estimated that the water carried into the river up to 12,000 cubic metres of soil, weighing 15,000 tons, the volume of 25 swimming pools.