driving in floods & gales - what to do when the wind blows

jonathan crouch on the impact of bad weather on the roads and those who have to use them...

Not surprisingly, gales, driving rain and flooding always prompt a wave of breakdowns and a massive workload for the emergency services and motoring organisations. The AA, for example, tend to take over 2,000 calls an hour during the morning rush in days where there are extreme weather conditions.

They're not alone either. Damp electrics and blown engines associated with driving through deep surface water tend to swamp the switchboards of all the UK's leading motoring organisations in the deepest winter months. After storms, the AA report that flooded engines or damp starts account for 90 per cent of the callouts they receive. The organisation always urges motorists to take great care, and to consider delaying non-essential journeys in the worst-affected areas.

It also urges drivers to follow some simple rules for driving in floods and gales: travel through flood water at no more than walking pace - 10mph is too fast if the car in front surges through deep water and creates a bow wave, stay back to avoid getting your engine swamped try not to drive through flood water more than 10 inches deep - air intakes on new cars are lower than they used to be don't underestimate the power of wind gusts - a 60mph gust creates four times the force of a 30mph wind keep both hands on the wheel, particularly if you are being buffeted by the wind or the slipstreams of other vehicles watch out for fallen trees, or for branches that are hanging above the road.

If you break down on a motorway or on another busy road, remember that it's safer to wait outside the car for assistance. High winds can cause big lorries to veer of course and on to hard shoulders.