The North Sea Flood of 1953 was caused by a deep low-pressure system that moved rapidly across the North Sea causing strong northwesterly gales (the most dangerous winds for generating high waves and sea levels). The system, although not especially deep, moved close to land giving sustained winds. The night of the 31st January was a high spring tide, exacerbating the effects of the storm surge.
Sea levels off eastern England were raised by more than two metres with fatal consequences. Three hundred and seven people lost their lives down the coast of eastern England.
Sea defences from Yorkshire to the Thames Estuary were given a pounding and gave way under the onslaught. Waves were so large that they overtopped sea defences; the water that flooded in undermining sea-wall foundations until they collapsed.
Scarborough’s sea defences stood up to the onslaught but suffered extensive damage, as shown in these engineers photos taken at the time:
For more information and an explanation of what has changed since the 50’s follow this link:http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/in-depth/1953-east-coast-flood