Work is ongoing to assess damage to infrastructure and clear significant amounts of debris in Musselburgh resulting from a ‘one-in-thirty year’ flood event last week.

SEPA issued a flood warning on Thursday (23 May) for the River Esk through Musselburgh with a high risk of flooding to property alongside the banks of the river. A multi-agency flood response group was assembled bringing together representatives from the council, emergency services, Met Office, Scottish Government and SEPA to monitor and respond to the situation. The group met several times over the course of the day and evening remaining in place into Friday morning. 1000 sandbags and flood barriers were deployed in the area to manage the flood risk to properties.

A boundary wall at Inveresk House collapsed while the River Esk breached its bank at Musselburgh Golf Course. A significant amount of tree and other wooden debris caught on the bridges will be removed when possible. The condition of the town’s bridges and structures is currently being assessed.

Over 100mm of rainfall was recorded in the Esk area across two days; this is almost double the average amount for the month of May [see further information below]. An early assessment of available data indicates that the flow in the River Esk was approximately 170 cubic meters of water per second at its peak at 02:30hours on Friday 24 May. In flood risk terminology, this is in the category of a ‘one-in-30 year’ flood event.

The town of Musselburgh has a significant flood risk from both the River Esk and the Firth of Forth. These risks may occur either separately or through a combined event. The Council is advancing a flood protection scheme for the town which would provide formal defences to protect against coastal and river flood events up to and including a major ‘one-in-200 year’ flood. It will also include an allowance for climate change due to the increase in future flood risk that it will bring. Thursday’s flood event was from high water levels in the River Esk resulting from a prolonged period of rainfall without added pressure from the Firth’s tidal pattern.

Further information

SEPA rainfall gauge at Gladhouse reservoir (which is within the Esk catchment) recorded 66.8mm rainfall on 22 May and 44mm rainfall on 23 May. May has an average rainfall at that location of 58mm; May 2023 was a particularly dry month recording only 32mm.

Published: Tuesday, 28th May 2024