- Risk Level: Medium
- Risk Ref. #: NRR48
- Likelihood/Impact: 4/2
- Download the Risk Register
Storms conjure up images of waves battering a seafront, umbrellas blowing inside out and whirlwinds of leaves and rubbish blowing everywhere. Added to this, it’s probably the one time you hear the phrase ‘time to batten down the hatches’ – let’s be honest, everyone’s heard that one far too many times! But storms by their nature storms can and do cause plenty of problems. They are what we might call a primary risk that then leads to plenty of secondary ones (such as floods and power outages), which in themselves can be more destructive than the storm itself.
Did you know Storms don’t have an official Met Office definition, like a hurricane, but they are commonly known as deep and active areas of low pressure with associated strong winds and precipitation.
What is it?
As highlighted in the interesting fact section, it’s difficult to get a definite definition of a storm, but one example of storms is low pressure – storms with names!
Low Pressure/ Storms that are named:
We get low pressure systems moving across the UK all year, which bring rain, wind, and cloud with them. These form over the UK because cold polar air from the North meets warmer tropical air from the South. It is along this boundary that the jet stream flows. The difference in temperature between the cold polar air and warm tropical is greatest in Autumn and Winter which can lead to a stronger jet stream. This can sometimes intensify the low-pressure systems and therefore brings stronger winds and rain with it. If low pressure systems are forecast to bring significant impacts to the UK, it is then given name by the Met Office and becomes a named storm.
For more information: Named storms and low pressure systems in the UK - Met Office
For more information on different storm types: Storms - Met Office
These get released every year (in September) before the ‘storm’ season begins and go from A – Z. Storms generally get named to help with communication between all agencies and with the public. You can even suggest names every year: Name our Storms - Met Office.
There are also never any names beginning with Q, U, X, Y and Z. So, if you were born Zena Yasemin Quinn your very unlikely to ever get a storm named after you!
For more information on storm names: UK Storm Centre - Met Office
There are some very severe storms throughout history including:
- Typhoon Nina (China) – 1975, over 25,000 dead from flooding and a further 100,000 reportedly died from famine and disease.
- Bhola Cyclone (Bangladesh and India) – 1970, reported between 300,000 to 1 million deaths.
- Hurricane Katrina (USA) – 2005, over 1,800 people killed in total
*Death tolls are approximates due to different recording measures.
Focus on the UK: Great Storm of 1987
Recognise the date (maybe not)? This is before they gave storms names in the UK. What you might remember (or if you weren’t born at the time, have heard), is weather forecaster Michael Fish telling everyone there was nothing to worry about as a hurricane wasn’t on its way to the UK. That comment has gone down in history, making Michael Fish probably the most notable weather forecaster ever, as only hours later a terrifying storm swept through the UK.
The storm brought 100+mph winds which seemed to appear from nowhere. The storm seemed to catch forecasters by surprise due to its sudden arrival. The storm brought huge destruction to the UK, including some deaths, building destruction and environmental damage. It has lived on in the memories of all those who were old enough at the time to experience it and is also continually referenced every year when a new storm arrives.
To read an interesting article on the storm: The Great Storm of 1987 and how it changed weather forecasting? | Countryfile.com
What are we doing about it in the LRF?
There is nothing we can do to prevent the storms, but we can do plenty to help mitigate and respond to them. Most mitigation measures will be carried out by individual agencies by, to use the phrase, ‘battening down the hatches’. Agencies will jointly communicate to make sure that our activities are coordinated and we are able to support one another.
Response to storms generally revolves around the secondary effects such as vulnerable people needing help, power outages, flood etc. There is no plan specifically for storms but there are for the secondary effects they cause. We regularly use storms as exercise scenarios as they allow us excellent opportunities to test out many different plans and procedures.
What can you do?
The weather is pretty much part of everyone’s conversations, “it was cold walking in this morning”, “is it going to rain today?” or “can I put the washing out?”. Therefore, we should be pretty clued up on what weather is coming, in the following days. The most important thing in preparation for a storm is to secure all the moveable items outside your house – so that’s trampolines, bins, chairs etc. There is always an image of a trampoline blown somewhere in a storm and these sorts of issues cause problems not only to the owner but could injure someone or damage property.
In addition, it’s also vitally important to listen to advice and guidance. It might seem fun to stand on a sea wall in a storm, but it really isn’t!