While we love to moan about our weather, the reality is that we actually enjoy a pretty mild climate compared to most other countries. We don’t get hurricanes, typhoons or cyclones because they originate in tropical waters.
But we are not immune to storms, as well as the tail-ends, or remnants, of hurricanes from across the Atlantic – and when they do hit, they can leave a trail of devastation in their wake, as we have experienced this weekend with storm Ciara.
What is a hurricane force wind?
Hurricane strength winds are defined as wind speeds over 74 mph, and our own British storms often blast us with wind speeds exceeding this, especially in exposed or highland areas. The majority of our storms occur in the autumn and winter, with this year’s storm Ciara proving the most destructive of the season so far. It’s important not to be complacent about the risk of injury and property damage, both during and after storms – so make sure you are properly prepared:
What Should I do Before a Storm?
- Pay attention to weather forecasts and warnings, and continue to check regularly.
- If you are planning outdoor leisure pursuits or to carry out non-essential work outdoors, then cancel or rearrange your plans for another time.
- If it is absolutely essential to be working outdoors, then make sure you are properly prepared with the correct clothing, equipment and make sure your family/friends/employer know what your plans are, where you will be and your expected return time.
- At home, prepare your property. Make sure all garden furniture, play equipment and loose items outside are either tied down or brought inside to prevent it from smashing windows. There are many videos online to demonstrate the damage that a large trampoline sailing on storm winds can do.
- Make sure all external windows and doors are properly shut and securely fastened, including garage doors. If you have shutters, close and secure them.
- Expect and prepare for power cuts, keep torches handy.
- Think about what surrounds your house and any weak points that may be affected. Are there large old trees close to the property? If so, then try and keep the family away from the area of the house that might be hit if it did come down. If your chimney stacks are tall or old, they could come down with strong winds, so make sure beds are well away from them (and obviously, don’t light the fires).
- If possible, park your car away from buildings, walls and trees to stop it getting damaged.
- Check on your elderly or vulnerable neighbours to see if they need any help preparing.
What Should I Do During a Storm?
- Only travel if absolutely necessary. Trees falling on people, either as they are walking or in their cars are a common cause of injury and death during storms. The risk of getting stuck because roads are blocked by fallen trees, accidents or sudden flooding is much higher. Remember that blocked roads will also stop emergency services getting through.
- If you have to drive, be aware of particularly exposed sites on your journey, such as bridges or high roads. Plan a safer, alternative route if possible and prepare for problems by taking warm, waterproof, hi-vis clothing, suitable boots, a torch, food and drink and a means of charging your mobile phone.
- Try to stay inside until the storm passes.
- If you do go outside, be wary that walls, buildings and trees could be unstable, so avoid walking close to them. You also need to be vigilant of flying debris which could hit you.
- Don’t try and repair property damage mid-storm, wait until the weather has eased off and it is daylight.
What Should I Do After a Storm?
- Do not go near downed electricity or telephone lines, or near any water that they could be touching.
- Structures such as walls, buildings and trees may be damaged and unstable. If they are within your property, be very careful when checking and if in doubt, call a relevant professional for inspection. Keep a safe distance from any such structures outside your property.
- Check that elderly or vulnerable neighbours are ok.
- Beware of rising floodwaters that may continue to pose a risk several hours after the rain has eased.