Image courtesy Environment Agency

Image courtesy Environment Agency

London’s main flood defense, the Thames Barrier, was closed Thursday night and again Friday afternoon for the 126th time in its 31-year history due to a historic storm surge produced by Storm Xaver.

As bad as the flooding was, without flood defenses such as Thames Barrier and Hull Barrier, it could have been a lot worse.

The image above, released today by the U.K.’s Environment Agency, which operates the Thames Barrier, shows just what London could have looked like if not for the barrier’s closure.

The Thames Barrier closed, December 6, 2013. Image (c) MPS Helicopters

The Thames Barrier closed, December 6, 2013. Image (c) MPS Helicopters

“The Environment Agency estimates that at least 800,000 properties have been protected by flood schemes in the past 24 hours,” said Dr. Paul Leinster, Environment Agency Chief Executive. “Flood risk management assets, including the Thames and Hull Barriers, have protected thousands of homes and businesses from sea levels higher in some places than those that occurred during the devastating floods of 1953.

An update Friday morning said that, as of 10 a.m., there were 27 severe flood warnings in place – the Environment Agency’s highest category – with an additional 138 flood warnings and 63 flood alerts in force.

Parts of North Yorkshire, the East Riding of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent were at greatest risk from the combination of a large surge, high tides and large waves produced by Xaver, according to the Environment Agency. The areas at risk of flooding also included the Northumberland coastline to Redcar and West Sussex.

Since Friday morning’s update, it seems the number of flood warnings in force has decreased to 12 severe flood warnings, 63 flood warnings, and 38 flood alerts.

Thames Barrier – How it works

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