When York was underwater

Thirty years ago the Ouse rose, and rose... and rose. We look back to a time when North Yorkshire looked like the Mississippi Delta, and York city centre had to be evacuated. But could it happen again?
Remembered - York's worst floods

With all that rain it’s no surprise that the Ouse has done its regular land-grab, claiming King’s Staith for its own once more.

On Friday the Environment Agency said the river peaked in York at 12.5ft, or 3.8m.

To which readers with a longer memory will say ‘Pah! Call that a peak?’

Thirty years ago this week the Ouse hit 16ft 7in. York was inundated.

The great flood of January 1982 left large swathes of the city underwater. This is how the Evening Press reported it at the time:

From the air, the Vale of York looks like the Mississippi Delta.
Miles of farmland, row upon row of houses and dozens of streets are under water.
The tragedy is summed up in the faces of the people of Cawood and Selby, who stand knee-deep in the streets outside their homes looking to the sky and praying for a miracle.

 

In York itself, police called a curfew at 3 o’clock, by which time the city centre was to be evacuated. Clifton was a giant lake.

Almost all routes in and out of the city were blocked.

Could such devastation be repeated? Well, in 2000 the Ouse peaked at 17f 10in above normal, the highest since records began.

But the safety measures put in place after 1982 – most notably the Foss Barrier – did the trick. Although the Knavesmire was underwater and homes next to the Ouse were invaded by floodwater, most of the city stayed dry.