The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning as the forecast for tonight and tomorrow is predicting further exceptionally heavy thunderstorms. It is rare to issue this Level 2 warning for severe thunderstorms and there is a possibility of tornadoes and heavy hail. People are being warned of potential flooding and delays to travel.
The warning means that there is a chance that homes and businesses could be flooded quickly, with damage to some buildings from floodwater, lightning strikes, hail or strong winds. In exceptional cases, fast flowing or deep floodwater could cause danger to life. There is also likely to be delays and cancellations to public transport, and dangerous driving conditions on the road which may lead to closures. There is a chance that power cuts could occur.
“This is very unusual for the UK” – Met Office
What the warning means:
- The warning means that there is a small chance that homes and businesses could be flooded quickly, with damage to some buildings from floodwater, lightning strikes, hail or strong winds
- There is a small chance of fast flowing or deep floodwater causing danger to life
- There is a chance of delays and some cancellations to train and bus services
- Spray and sudden flooding could lead to difficult driving conditions and some road closures
- There is a chance that power cuts could occur and other services to some homes and businesses could be lost
The Met Office has released information about traveling in such conditions, it is really important to be aware of the potential dangers and understand how to stay safe. Advice from the Met Office is as follows:
- If heavy downpours are expected, avoid starting your journey until it clears.
- If you can, choose main roads, where you are less likely to be exposed to fallen branches and debris and flooding.
- Use dipped headlights if visibility is seriously reduced.
- Gusts of wind can unsettle vehicles – grip your steering wheel firmly with both hands. This is particularly important when planning to overtake.
- Keep an eye out for gaps between trees, buildings or bridges over a river or railway – these are some of the places you are more likely to be exposed to side winds. Ensure that you maintain enough room either side of your vehicle so you can account for it being blown sideways.
- Roads will be more slippery than usual in wet weather – be sure to give yourself more time to react when approaching a hazard. Increase your following gap to at least four seconds from the moving traffic in front.
- Keep your eyes peeled on the road at all times as spray from other vehicles can suddenly reduce your visibility. Remember it affects others too, so anticipate their actions and be prepared.
Thunderstorms are distinct from other weather warnings, in terms of the localised impacts that they can bring. For example, rainfall amounts vary in different places, even when over a very short distance, which can make driving conditions very dangerous.
The Met Office has also released advice about driving in thunderstorms:
Driving in a thunderstorm
“If you are caught out in thunder and lightning it is advised that you wind up the windows and stay inside your car. This is because in the vast majority of cars with a metal roof and frame, the frame will act as a conductive Faraday cage, passing the current around the passengers inside and on to the ground.” (Met Office)
- Soft-top convertibles, with their fabric roofs, are the most at risk and could catch fire if struck by lightning
- Be aware that current can travel through other parts of many modern cars, including GPS and radio systems. Cars with metal interior handles, foot pedals and steering wheels can also carry current
- Cars can be damaged both internally and externally by lightning strikes.
- Remember to give vulnerable road users including cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians more room than usual. They are more likely to be blown around by side winds – always keep a safe distance.
- Keep your speed down, lowering your speed will lower the distance you travel when buffeted around by the wind.
- Hail storms can be extremely dangerous to drive in reducing your ability to see and be seen, as well as causing damage to your vehicle. If hail is severe, stop and pull over to a safe place and remain inside the vehicle
During the thunderstorm
- Avoid using the phone – telephone lines can conduct electricity
- Avoid using taps and sinks – metal pipes can conduct electricity
- If outside avoid water and find a low-lying open place that is a safe distance from trees, poles or metal objects
- Avoid activities such as golf, rod fishing or boating on a lake
- Be aware of metal objects that can conduct or attract lightning, including golf clubs, golf buggies, fishing rods, umbrellas, motorbikes, bicycles, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, pushchairs, wire fencing and rails. If you are in a tent, try to stay away from the metal poles
- If you find yourself in an exposed location it may be advisable to squat close to the ground, with hands on knees and with head tucked between them. Try to touch as little of the ground with your body as possible, do not lie down on the ground
- If you feel your hair stand on end, drop to the above position immediately
After the thunderstorm
- Avoid downed power lines or broken cables
- If someone is struck by lightning, they often suffer severe burns. The strike also affects the heart, so check if they have a pulse.
Featured image: John Fowler