Wet weather driving: Advice issued ahead of Storm Ciarán hitting the UK

DRIVERS are being urged to check weather forecasts before hitting the road as Storm Cairán hits the UK this week.

In response to weather warnings for high winds and heavy rainfall issued by the Met Office, National Highways has issued a Severe Weather Alert for gales – highlighting southern coastal areas across Dorset.

Wind strengths across the south west are expected to hit between 50mph and 60mph.

And National Highways is advising motorists – particularly those driving high-sided HGVs, motor homes and motorcycles, and those towing caravans and trailers – to check the weather and driving conditions before setting out on journeys.

Amy Shaw, national network manager at National Highways, said: “Driving conditions are likely to change given the Met Office forecasts around Storm Ciarán.

“If you’re using the roads slow down and give yourself more space between you and the vehicle in front. It is harder for tyres to grip the road and excess spray makes it harder to see ahead.

“We also remind drivers to remember TRIP – this is a National Highways initiative to help motorists. It stands for: Top-up – fuel, water and oil; Rest – every two hours; Inspect – tyres and lights before a long journey and Prepare – check your journey and the weather forecast before heading out.

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“In high winds, there’s a particular risk to lorries, caravans and motorbikes so we’d advise drivers of these vehicles to slow down and drive to the conditions.

“Drivers of other vehicles should be aware of sudden gusts of wind which can affect handling and braking, and give high-sided vehicles, caravans, and motorbikes plenty of space.”

Unladen curtain-sided vehicles are particularly vulnerable to windy conditions on high ground, such as southern coastal areas, she said.

“Curtains on empty high-sided vehicles can act as sails when closed, and when high winds arise, we advise HGV drivers to open their curtain-sided vehicles if they are empty,” Amy added.

Met Office chief meteorologist, Dan Suri, said: “Wind and rain warnings associated with Storm Ciarán are in force from Wednesday night onwards into Friday.

“An amber warning for winds is in place for south western parts of England and Wales in the early hours and morning of Thursday and the far south and south east of England Thursday daytime and early evening.

“Storm Ciarán is expected to bring very strong along southern coastal areas of England in particular where gusts of 70 to 80mph are possible, gusts perhaps exceeding 85 mph in the most exposed locations. Further inland, gusts could reach up to 50 or 60mph.

“As well as strong winds, this deep low pressure system will bring heavy rain to many parts of the country. The rain will fall on already saturated ground, bringing the risk of flooding.”

Tips for driving in heavy rain

National Highways has issued advice for drivers this week. It includes:

  • In heavy rain, drivers should keep well back from the vehicle in front, gradually ease off the accelerator if the steering becomes unresponsive, and slow down if the rain and spray from vehicles makes it difficult to see and be seen.
  • Avoid the floods: Don’t drive through flood water: there could be hidden hazards, and it may be deeper than it looks.
  • If it’s time for your wipers, it’s time to slow down.
  • Use dipped headlights, especially if visibility is seriously reduced.
  • The roads will be more slippery than usual, so give yourself more time to react – increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front to at least four seconds.
  • Look out for standing water – adjust your driving before and after encountering any.
  • Always keep your eyes on the road – spray from other vehicles can suddenly reduce your visibility.
  • Visibility affects others too, so anticipate their actions and be prepared.
  • During thunderstorms, sudden winds can unsettle vehicles – keep your speed down and give other road users more room.
  • If your vehicle is susceptible to high-wind conditions, consider delaying your journey until weather conditions improve if you can.

When you’re on the road:

  • Slow down and keep focused on the road ahead – you may encounter debris blown in by the wind.
  • Avoid using exposed sections of road if possible. Lorries, caravans and motorbikes are at particular risk.
  • Use both hands on the steering wheel to keep good control of your vehicle -gusts of wind can cause your vehicle to shake
  • Look out for gaps in trees or buildings, or when crossing bridges – you’re more likely to encounter side winds here.
  • Keep room on either side of your vehicle to allow for it being blown sideways.
  • Watch out for side winds when passing larger high-sided vehicles – keep room on either side of your vehicle to allow for it being blown sideways.
  • Keep to main roads if possible: Minor roads are more likely to be obstructed by fallen branches and debris, so keep to main routes if you can.

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I am the editor in chief of Blackmore Vale media, which includes the New Blackmore Vale, New Stour & Avon, Salisbury & Avon Gazette and the Purbeck Gazette, having been a reporter for some 20 years. In my spare time, I am a festival lover, with a particular focus on Glastonbury. I live in Somerset with my wife and two children.