Flood haunted neighborhood eyes upgrades to West London Dyke

“It was scary,” Gianna Rigopoulos admitted, recalling when the Thames River flooded her street. “It was kind of like ocean waves washing up towards our house.”

In February 2018, the Thames River flooded parts of central London after cresting its banks. The residential streets around Cavendish Crescent, near Wharncliffe and Riverside, were hardest hit.

Diane Brown watched from her window as the river rose along the West London Dyke.

“Looking between the two houses across the street I could see water running across the top,” she recalled.

More than four years after the floodwaters subsided, upgrades to the section of dyke that protects the neighborhood are entering the final design stage.

“There’s 1,200 properties that will be protected by the entire dyke system,” explains Shawna Chambers, division manager of Stormwater Engineering.

The improvements are part of an ongoing plan to make London’s flood protection system more resilient to climate change.

A map depicting the next phase of the West London Dyke upgrades. The stone wall stretching the length of the Blackfriars neighborhood was replaced over the last couple years, and the next phase of upgrades will extend from Queens Avenue to Cavendish Park.

Chambers explained, “There’s going to be a combination of stone walls and earthen berms depending on where we are. All have the same purpose — to protect people from flooding.”

The West London Dyke was originally designed to control water in the event of a once-in-a-century flood, but the upgrades will allow it to withstand a 250 year flood.

Five people died when the Thames River flooded in 1937, leading to construction of the dyke system that protects the Blackfriars neighborhood and adjacent areas on the west side of Wharncliffe Road.

The Cavendish Crescent area faces two sources of flooding from the river and insufficient storm water catchment.

Both sources of flooding are being targeted by the city.

“The city is looking at two measures; the dyke to protect residents from the river and projects along the way to provide more storage of water,” Chambers explained.

Residents say the upgrades will help their peace of mind.

“It’s a good feeling because I plan to live here the rest of my days,” said Brown.

“There are a lot of families and people who don’t need the stress of a flood,” Rigopoulos added.

On May 24, council is expected to approve hiring a consultant to optimize the design of the dyke upgrades.

Work on the dyke will start in 2024.

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