Brits warned of extreme weather this winter and ‘ignore flood warnings at your peril’
Brits have been urged to ignore flood warnings “at their own peril” this winter, with more extreme weather conditions likely to hit the UK.
Numerous flood warnings and alerts have already been issued across the country this autumn, with widespread disruption to the roads and railway networks.
And despite record-breaking temperatures over the summer, communities are being warned not to be complacent and to prepare effectively for potential flooding.
Nearly two in three households at risk of flooding don’t actually believe it would happen to them, research has revealed.
Since 1998, the UK has seen six of the 10 wettest years on record, and February of this year saw three named storms in one week – the first time that’s ever happened.
While normal winter conditions are still most likely from now until January, the likelihood of a mega-cold snap is also greater than normal.
Caroline Douglass, Executive Director of Flooding at the Environment Agency, urged communities not to be fooled by the summer’s drought.
The warm weather – which saw temperatures soar over 40C and hosepipe bans put in place – doesn’t mean we can’t experience damaging floods, she warned.
“We can still have flooding while we’re in a drought. Just because we’re in a drought doesn’t mean we won’t have flodding,” she said.
“Climate change is happening now. We’re seeing more extreme weather – in this year alone with three named storms in a week, record-breaking temperatures, and drought declared across large parts of the country.
“That is why it is vital that people take the necessary preparations as early as possible to prepare for the worst. Our recent investment programme has better protected 314,000 homes from flooding and we’re investing millions into keeping communities safe, but we can’t stop all flooding.
“The message is clear – households risk ignoring the danger of flooding at their own peril. Anyone can go online to check if they are at risk, sign up for Environment Agency warnings, and, most importantly, know what you need to do if flooding hits.”
Over the weekend, some areas experienced 34mm of rain in just 24 hours as the nation was battered by torrential downpours.
World leaders are currently meeting in Egypt for COP27, after a year that saw wildfires raging across Europe, China’s worst heatwave in decades, and devastating floods in Pakistan ripping through communities, killing more than 1,700, people and displacing millions.
Here in the UK, the Environment Agency has now expanded its flood warning service to reach almost 50,000 new properties at risk of flooding and hopes to exceed its target to provide new warning capability for 62,000 properties at risk of flooding by this winter.
But Ms Douglass maintained that she’s always worried about the safety of communities and urges people to take precautions and stay safe.
“I’m always concerned for people’s safety in floods,” she added. “Water can be really dangerous. It can be very fast-flowing, and much deeper than expected.
“Driving through flood water can have huge impacts, as can being near areas of coastal storm surges.
“Just last week, two people were killed in Australia as a result of the flooding there, and we have seen people drown as a result of flooding here.
“There’s always a risk to life.”
At least one in six people in England is at risk from flooding from rivers and the sea, with many more at risk from surface water flooding.
Three million properties are at risk of flooding where no early warning signs are available.
There were 5,000 staff who were trained and ready to respond to flooding emergencies, as well as 300 military personnel on standby.
Will Laing from the Met Office said winters were gradually getting wetter, and next February could see a repeat of the storms experienced at the same time earlier this year although it’s currently hard to predict.
The chances of dry conditions from now until January are greater than normal for this year, and there is a reduced chance of wet conditions and impacts from heavy rainfall.
“Winters in the UK usually include a wide variety of weather, and this winter looks to be no exception,” he said.
“Although we expect to see high pressure dominating our weather through much of the early winter, which increases the potential for cold spells, we could still see wet and windy weather at times.
“The risk of unsettled weather increases as we head into 2023 with wet, windy, and mild spells a real possibility.”
And with just 30cm of flowing water being enough to float a car, drivers are also being warned not to attempt to drive through flood water and take extra precautions in wet weather.
Those at risk of flooding encouraged to follow the advice to ‘Prepare. Act. Survive’.
If there is an initial flood alert, prepare by packing medicines and insurance, as well as other important documents, and visit the flood warning information service.
If there is subsequently confirmed flood warning, act by moving family, pets, and belongings to safety. Turn off gas, water and electricity.
If there is a severe flood warning. survive immediate danger by following the advice of emergency services or calling 999 if needed.