There’s nothing we Brits love more than moaning about the weather. But when a ‘bit of drizzle’ turns into a full-blown storm, it can take more than a grumble to our neighbours to sort out the damage.
Since November, we’ve seen a record number of storms rock the UK. Storms have affected areas as diverse as Scotland, Cumbria, the North West, Wales and Cornwall. The cost of flooding across northern England over Christmas is estimated to reach £1.5bn, according to PWC. The government pledged £40million to help communities get back on their feet in the wake of Storm Eva.
So now it’s more important than ever to be aware of storms so that you can plan ahead and, should you need it, get some much needed help if the storm affects you. Our E.ON Energy Fund is one of the ways we can help - be it financial support or even replacing damaged appliances.
Our fund is open to everybody, no matter which energy supplier they are with, and it can help clear energy debt and with the provision or replacement of boilers and white goods.
Why are we getting so many storms?
Since the start of the season in November, we’ve already had nine storms - Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank, Gertrude, Henry and Imogen. This makes it the stormiest period of UK weather for more than 20 years. And, as it's not even March yet, there could be more to come. But what causes these storms and have there actually been more than usual?
Storms are caused when cold and warm air currents merge to create a difference in air pressure. Because warm air moves faster, the cold air is pushed to lower pressure areas. This causes the air to swirl, creating rain clouds and wind.
Scientists also suggest that climate change may be partly to blame. Storms are caused by weather chain reactions in the global system. So as the earth gets hotter through global warming, the air can hold more moisture. And this creates the big differences in air pressure that cause storms.
But are these storms worse than usual? It certainly seems like it. December was the wettest month ever recorded, with double the average amount of rain falling for the time of year. The Met Office says that winds must reach at least 52mph if it’s going to count as a storm - winds during Imogen reached 96mph, whilst Storm Gertrude’s gusts measured up to a whopping 105mph. The Met Office won’t release a conclusion on how bad this season has been until it’s over, so we’ll just have to wait and see for the official results…
What’s in a name?
Naming storms really started with our friends in the US, whose famous hurricanes include Katrina and Mitch. So following the trend, we decided to name our storms in order to raise public awareness of what they are, when they’re coming and how to limit the damage they can cause.
But we did it with a twist. Instead of the brainboxes at the Met Office choosing their own names, they opened it out to the general public to pick. We didn’t disappoint, choosing 21 names, starting at ‘A’ and working to the end of the alphabet. Yes clever clogs, there are five letters missing - Q, U, X, Y and Z. Hurricanes don’t use these letters, so neither do we. It’s a nice nod to our pals over the pond.
All the storm names for this season have already been chosen – starting with Abigail and ending with Wendy. And if we have more than 21 storms, we’ll start back again at ‘A’.
What to do before a storm hits
Preventing the damage caused by flooding in particular is really important. That’s why most communities near rivers and seas have flood defences like floodwalls, floodgates and embankments. These are built by the government and maintained by the Environment Agency – often with help from third party businesses in the area.
Areas are also evaluated by a National Flood Risk Assessment (NaFRA), which helps keep track of environmental changes and can estimate how likely a place is to flood and to plan for the future.
What can people do to protect themselves and their homes? You can also make your home as storm-proof as possible. Replace any broken or lose roof tiles before a storm hits, so that it won’t get further damaged by heavy snow or wind. Make sure that pipes and gutters are clear of leaves and other blockages so that water can drain easily during heavy rainfall. Use sandbags or floodgates to limit water damage from flooding. Always keep an emergency kit in a safe place – torch, contact details, warm clothing, tinned food – if you live in an area that experiences a lot of power cuts during extreme weather. Cut back tree branches that could damage cars, houses and roads, in case wind speeds pick up.
The most important thing to do though is keep up to date with weather warnings in your area. These are colour coded. Yellow weather warnings mean ‘be aware’ and will mean that you can expect things like travel disruption. Amber is ‘be prepared’ and means that you should prepare for road closures and risks to your home and safety. Red weather warnings mean ‘take action’ and are the most serious of all – in these cases, there is likely to be damage resulting from the storm, travel disruption and risk to public safety. In these extreme cases, you should follow the advice of the emergency services and local authorities in your area.
What about afterwards?
There is lots of help available to people who’ve been affected by storms. At E.ON, our Energy Fund helps vulnerable people, no matter who their energy supplier is. Not only does the Fund help people pay their energy bills, but it can also help people repair or replace their boilers. During this weather season, we've given over £75,000 of support to 281 households in Cumbria, Northumberland and Scotland. As well as boilers, we have helped these people replace their white goods – like cookers, fridges and washing machines.
To get in touch and find out if you are eligible use our online application form quoting ‘FLOOD APPLICATION’ in the free text box or call us on 03303 80 10 90 before 31 May 2016.
The government have also pledged to help communities who have been badly affected by flooding. They are investing in rebuilding roads and bridges that collapsed during heavy flooding in Cumbria and Yorkshire during the worst storms. If you need more information about what help is available, contact your local authority or visit the Government help page.