By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent
The UK could be hit by a wetter-than-normal winter, experts said, as households are urged to be prepared for the risk of flooding.
A Met Office outlook shows there is an above-average chance of the winter being wetter than normal over the next three months, with the wetter conditions most likely in January and February next year.
The Environment Agency is urging people to check their flood risk online, sign up for flood warnings and, if they are at risk, know what to do if flooding hits their home.
The call comes at the start of “flood action week”, as the agency disclosed findings from a survey which suggested three-fifths (61%) of households in flood-risk areas did not believe their property was at risk from flooding.
While 70% of households in at-risk areas had taken some steps to prepare for their home flooding, 30% had done nothing – which if replicated across England could mean as many as 1.5 million homes at risk of flooding are unprepared.
Will Lang, head of civil contingencies at the Met Office said:
“Winters in the UK usually include a wide variety of weather and this winter looks to be no exception.
“However, when looking at the big global drivers that impact weather in the UK there are indications this winter could be wetter than normal.
“Although these wetter conditions are most likely in January and February next year, details will become clearer nearer the time and information can be found on the forecast pages of our website.”
The EA estimates 5.2 million properties in England are at risk from floods, with those at risk urged to follow advice to protect themselves by:
– If there is a flood alert, prepare by packing medicines and insurance and other important documents and visit the flood warning information service.
– If there is a flood warning, act by moving family, pets and belongings to safety, and 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.
The Environment Agency said it has 250 mobile pumps and 6,000 trained staff ready to take action to protect communities from flooding this winter, while construction and repair of flood defences has also continued throughout the year.
In late October, when parts of the country saw a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours, some 79 households were flooded but more than 3,300 properties were protected by flood defences and action the EA took, it said.
But Caroline Douglass, executive director of flooding at the Environment Agency, warned:
“Now is the time for us all to be vigilant, not complacent, about flooding.”
She said the EA’s previous investment programme protected 314,000 properties from flooding, defences helped protect nearly 200,000 properties during floods since 2019 and the organisation was investing millions in building new schemes and making repairs to keep communities safe.
“Yet we can’t prevent all flooding – climate change is only increasing that risk – and today’s figures show that while some people are prepared, many are not.
“It’s vitally important for the public to go online and check if they are at risk, sign up for Environment Agency warnings, and know what to do if flooding hits,” she said.
There was also a warning for drivers – as just 30cm (1ft) of flowing water is enough to float a car.
Tony Rich, from the AA, urged drivers to allow plenty of time for journeys during heavy rainfall as roads could quickly become impassable, and to leave twice as much space from the car in front to allow for greater stopping distances.
“Drivers should take extra care where roads dip, for example under bridges, as these areas are more likely to flood.
“Flood water can be deceptively deep, and it doesn’t take much for water to get sucked into your engine. It can also mask other hazards in the road, such as displaced manhole covers, so if in doubt turn around and find another route.”