October 20, 2005

Due South
By Mark Entwistle
The Southern Reporter
Selkirk, The Borders

Flooding first signs of global warming?

There is definitely something up with the weather.

This time of year in Scotland sees the equinox, when summer weather patterns and cycles change to those of autumn and winter, but the extreme nature of the weather here in recent weeks has been out of the ordinary.

Last week in the Scottish Borders, we had around a month’s rain fall in a single 24-hour period, causing several local rivers to burst their banks.

One of these, the River Teviot, flows right through the middle of the biggest town in the Borders - Hawick.

In the early hours of last Tuesday morning, police and emergency services vehicles were out on the streets warning people of the dangers of imminent flooding.

Despite sandbags being issued, flood waters still swept along several low-lying streets, even washing cars away and totally wrecking the local rugby club ground.

The sports pitch was covered in debris and office equipment, with computers and furniture strewn all over the place.

Two portable buildings which doubled as an office and shop were reduced to little more than matchwood.

A photographer and I were in Hawick on the Wednesday morning to witness for ourselves what was happening. This part of the world is not known for suffering many serious floods, but in recent years they seem to be on the increase.

Of course, last week’s events were not on a par with the deluge that engulfed New Orleans and the southern states’ coastline recently, but standing watching a large tree float down the river in the middle of a Borders town and walls being washed away are new experiences for us.

Ironically, local government officials had been trumpeting the opening of six new stores where members of the public could get filled sandbags in case of flooding just the week before the floods!

But I don’t think they were anticipating the demand in Hawick last week, with 2,000 filled sandbags being handed it out in just hours.

Of course, if you look back at historical records, there are numerous occasions when weather patterns were noted as being extreme.

But with all the concern right now about global warming and climate change, you can’t help but wonder if these are the first real signs we are seeing that it is indeed taking place.

Autumn so far has been much milder here in the Borders. In my own garden for instance, several rose bushes are blooming for a second time while a giant fuschia is still covered in giant crimson flowers.

Butterflies still flit around our garden and there have been reports of certain species of birds and fish more normally found in Europe’s warmer southern climes, now being recorded further north across Europe than they normally would be.

On a personal note my younger brother and his family are moving house this week. They are not going far - in fact, only about two miles along the road closer to us.

Family members and good friends are being roped in at various points to provide extra muscle for heaving big furniture, packing boxes and making soup and sandwiches to feed the hungry workers.

However, Entwistle junior has promised a few beers in the new residence on Saturday night once they are moved in and I think I can safely say we will be definitely taking him up on his offer!

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