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Storm Babet ‘could be among most expensive weather events in Scottish history’

© Steve MacDougall / DC Thomson &American tourist Scott Johnson retrieves luggage from an abandoned hire car on the flooded A923 Coupar Angus to Blairgowrie. Image: DC Thomson
American tourist Scott Johnson retrieves luggage from an abandoned hire car on the flooded A923 Coupar Angus to Blairgowrie. Image: DC Thomson

Storm Babet could be one of the costliest weather events in Scottish history, with the repair bill expected to reach up to £500 million.

Insurers were already anticipating a spike in claims over the weekend from customers in north east Scotland who have lost everything in the floods.

But a climate change expert warns the bill for future-proofing Scotland’s communities vulnerable to global warming could be even higher.

Seven-year-old flood defences failed

Brechin, in Angus, has been one of the worst hit areas in the country, with hundreds of homes having to be evacuated.

Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, said: “At the launch of Brechin’s new flood defence scheme in 2016, it was claimed it would cope with a ‘once in 200 year event’.

“Well, that was just seven years ago and I doubt if it will be another 200 years before we see something similar happening again.”

Rescue operation in Brechin. Image: Paul Reid

Scotland is regarded as being particularly prone to extreme weather events because its Atlantic-facing coast attracts more rainfall than other parts of the UK and Europe.

Ward said Scotland’s infrastructure – like roads, railways, drainage and flood defences – will have to be strengthened to cope with what has described as unprecedented rainfall.

He added: “The cost of dealing with this change in our climate is going to be enormous.

“People complain about the cost of tackling global warming but the impact of what will happen if we don’t meet our targets is going to be huge.”

Final bill could be highest ever

The Brechin scheme, one of the Scottish Government’s 42 flood prevention projects, was one of the biggest civil engineering jobs ever undertaken in Angus, designed to cope with flooding 3.8 metres high.

The new walls were breached at around 4am on Friday, with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency stating water levels were running five metres above normal.

The last time Scotland was handed a red Met Office weather warning was in November 2021 during Storm Arwen.

Insurers said the final bill for mainly wind-related damage was around £300 million.

Rescue teams on Claverhouse Road where two vehicles were stranded. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

The Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management says flood events require more costly repairs, which suggests the bill for Babet could be even higher.

Flooding from major rivers across the UK is expected to continue into Tuesday and there was major disruption to transport well into Saturday.

Death toll from storm rises

Six people are feared to have died since the storm hit the UK, as searches continue in Aberdeenshire following reports of a man trapped in a vehicle in floodwater.

A falling tree hit a van near Forfar on Thursday evening, killing 56-year-old John Gillan from Arbroath.

Mr Gillan, who is understood to have worked as a painter and decorator, died at the scene of the incident.

Emergency services in River Street in Brechin knock on doors and ask residents to evacuate due to flood warnings. Image: PA

A 57-year-old woman also died on Thursday after being swept into the Water of Lee, Glen Esk.

Two women were killed in a crash linked to dangerous weather on the M4 between Chippenham and Bath on Friday.

Meanwhile, a man in his 60s died after getting caught in fast-flowing flood water in Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire.

Man feared for life in freezing waters

Brechin man Euan Clark believed he was also going to die when his home was engulfed by several feet of water.

Wearing only a pair of shorts and raising his beloved dog Sasha above the rising water, he made a dash for safety when the town’s flood defences failed in the early hours.

Clark says he has never been so afraid but he believes a call from his dad saved his life as he would have slept through the flood otherwise.

He said: “I was terrified. I really thought I was going to drown.

Storm Babet Brechin
Euan Clark thought he was going to die. Image: Lindsey Hamilton/DC Thomson

“There was a strong current and although I couldn’t really feel it because adrenaline was keeping me going, the water was freezing.”

Clark continued: “I managed to get back into my house on Saturday morning and it is a total mess.

“There are several inches of mud everywhere, there is a mark on the wall as high as me.

“All my furniture is soaked and covered in mud and upside down.”

storm babet Brechin
Euan indicates how high the water was in his home. Image: Lindsey Hamilton/DC Thomson
storm babet Brechin
The mess left behind in Euan’s home. Image: Euan Clark

Meanwhile, the owners of a family-run caravan park in Laurencekirk say they are devastated by the extent of the damage caused by the storm.

Davie and Adele Mowatt, alongside their son David Mowatt and daughter Lynsey Reid, lost seven of their static caravans and a further 20 were damaged, while their tool shed has “vanished”.

“The worst weather we ever had was Storm Frank in 2015,” David said. “My mother has been here all her days and she’d never seen anything like that.

“This storm here was Frank and half again. It’s devastating.”

Transport chaos

Dozens of roads were closed by flooding and falling trees, including the A90 between Stonehaven and Dundee, the A9 between Tomich and Alness and the A92 near Cupar between Forgan roundabout and Melville Lodges roundabout.

Angus Council said most roads were affected in the region.

The storm also cut power to more than 33,000 customers in Scotland, with work continuing on Saturday to reconnect 1,100 properties.

London’s King’s Cross station was forced to close due to overcrowding as passengers were warned not to travel by rail.

Network Rail said crowd control measures had been put in place due to disruption to LNER services.