The best strategy is to stay in. Check forecasts with a reputable source if the news predicts difficult conditions. Consider whether your journey is really necessary. If you’re travelling to an event, contact the organisers and make sure it’s going ahead. Do you need to go out for supplies, or could you last out on stores? Can you arrange a video call instead of a visit?
It’s not always possible to avoid having to travel. You may already be a long way from home. Using a credit card responsibly allows you spare borrowing capacity. It might be better to book into a hotel for the night and continue your journey in daylight. The extreme weather event may have passed over by then.
The metrological services can predict storms with some accuracy these days, but they can move faster, or be more violent, than expected. If you’re driving in high winds, try to use main roads, where there is less chance of falling branches. Look out for side gusts, especially on exposed parts of the road. Your vehicle can be blown off course, other traffic may be pushed into your path, or debris may fly across the road. Take care when overtaking, keep both hands on the wheel and concentrate at all times. You are not safe.
Storms are often accompanied by heavy rain. A wet road surface is slippery. Stay a good distance behind the car in front, and reduce your speed. Investing in good tyres with a deep tread helps protect you from aquaplaning. You shouldn’t attempt to drive through flood water. Even if it looks shallow, you can’t see what’s under the surface.
Hail can fall with such violence that it could break your side or rear car windows, which are not as strong as the windscreen. Try to pull over during a severe hailstorm, if it’s safe to do so.
Fog can descend rapidly and unexpectedly. It’s hard to gauge your speed when the sides of the road are obscured, so check your speedometer regularly. You should be driving slowly, and once more leaving yourself a lot of room. Keep headlights dipped, or they will just reflect off the fog bank. Only use your fog lights when you’re having difficulty seeing the tail lights of a vehicle in front of you. Turn them off when visibility improves, as they are a distraction to other drivers.
In winter, both storms and fog can be accompanied by ice or snow. These create very dangerous driving conditions. If you are caught out at night with a long way to go, you should definitely consider heading for a hotel or service area. A car park with facilities is going to be more comfortable than being trapped in a snowdrift.
Freezing weather may cause patches of black ice, and snow can quickly turn to ice on a road surface. Be very careful when using your brakes in such conditions. Stay alert for potential hazards so that you can reduce speed carefully. Sudden braking may cause you to skid. The advice here is to steer gently into a skid – if the rear of your car is moving to the right, steer to the right. Braking hard will make things worse.
Pedestrians can face many dangers as well. Apart from the hazards posed by drivers losing control of their vehicles, you are more vulnerable to wind-blown debris when on foot. Keep away from the sheltered side of high walls and trees where possible. If they fall, it will be in this direction.
You are unlikely to be out on foot while the storm is raging, but once the rain has stopped you might venture to walk the dog or go to the shops. Don’t try to walk through flood water, especially if it’s moving. Remember one cubic metre of water weighs a ton – as much as a small car – so a hand’s depth can easily sweep you off your feet and carry you into the nearby river.
Go slowly on ice, and concentrate, to avoid falls. Don’t turn your head to talk to companions, and stop walking if you need to consult your phone. Using a back-pack for shopping keeps your hands free for better balance. If you’re walking in a remote or rural area during freezing conditions, it’s a good idea to let someone know where you are going. Remember to tell them when you get back, or reach your destination.
‘Recipes for Resilience – common sense cooking for the 21st century’ contains lots of advice about keeping a good food store. Forget the sacks of rice which you’ll never manage to eat and keep a box handy of the things you actually use!
Then make a cake, load up a film and sit out the bad weather!