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High rating

The article by Matthew Jones (NCE 5 November) seems to imply that the Environment Agency failed to forecast peak flood levels during the recent flood event and that its systems were unreliable.

For the record, the Agency's forecasting models accurately forecast the level which would be attained by the River Severn at Shrewsbury some 14 hours prior to that peak level being reached and appropriate flood warnings were issued. It is therefore wrong for your headline to suggest that the peak was missed. The only 'failure' of the forecast was that this particular flood event resulted in levels remaining at their maximum for longer than the models expected. The one negative consequence of this was that the clean up operations were delayed as the flood receded more slowly than expected.

Paul Crockett was also misinterpreted in his explanation as to why the Agency's forecast of the shape of the hydrograph was not more accurate and thus why levels took longer to fall than expected.

The suggestion that the Agency does not have much confidence in the rating equations at its gauging stations is incorrect. The Agency has many river gauging stations in which it has every confidence in their rating equations. It is inevitable however that the error margin increases as one approaches the very high magnitude events that occur rarely, particularly if such ratings are extrapolations of lesser events.

Regional engineer, Environment Agency, Sapphire East, 550 Streetsbrook Road, Solihull B91 1QT.

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