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Coastal flood warning system launched for Western Isles

The coastline on North Uist. Picture by Sandy McCook

A new coastal flood alert system is being rolled out across the Western Isles which could protect nearly 7,000 homes and businesses.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has developed its Floodline service in partnership with the Western Isles Council to include more specific information for those living on the islands.

It is designed for the most at-risk coastal areas on Lewis, Harris, Berneray, Benbecula, North and South Uist, Eriskay, Barra and Vatersay.

In addition to the existing regional flood alerts provided by Sepa, they will receive shorter range warnings to tell them flooding from the sea, heavy rain or rivers is possible in their area.

The new service, supported by a dedicated forecasting model, includes 24 flood warning areas, with 16 also providing notice of coastal flooding and disruption to roads and causeways.

Within those areas are 1,000 homes and businesses directly at risk – though the environmental agency says nearly 7,000 properties overall could benefit from advance warning of issues like travel disruption.

‘The island community is vulnerable’

Paul Copestake, flood advisor at Sepa, said: “With climate change expected to cause wetter winters, more intense rainfall in summer and sea level rise in Scotland, we are working in partnership with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to strengthen our flood warning services across the islands and help Scotland to prepare more powerfully for future increased flooding.

“Eilean Siar as an island community is vulnerable to the impacts of coastal flooding, and our new coastal flood forecasting model gives us more information than ever before about the potential flood risk and impacts caused by high tides, tidal surges, and wave overtopping.

“By signing up to Sepa’s Floodline, residents will receive advance notice of where and when flooding is expected, enabling them to take action to prepare and ensure their safety.”

Roseanna Cunningham MSP

People using the service will be able to sign up to receive one or more flood warnings, which would give them information about potential issues where they live or in areas where they frequently travel.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham welcomed the scheme and said: “We know the devastating impact that flooding can have on communities and livelihoods – and we know climate change can make this worse.

“Being prepared for any flood event is critical if we are to manage the risks and promote long term flood resilience.

“That is why I’m pleased to see the launch of SEPA’s flood warning scheme in Eilean Siar. Early alerts of any forecasted flooding will help people living in the area better prepare for and recover from a flood event.”

The Scottish Government has made more than £1.6million available to Sepa this year to improve flood warning schemes. A further £193,000 has also been provided to the Scottish Flood Forum.

People can sign up for the Floodline service by visiting www.floodlinescotland.org.uk/eileansiar or calling 0345 988 1188.

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