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Storms and strong winds

  

What are the risks?

In a storm, the greatest risks are from high winds.  In the case of thunderstorms, lightning is also a risk.

During high winds, buildings can be vulnerable to structural damage, falling trees and loose debris can cause a danger to passers-by, and damage or blocking of key routes can have a knock-on impact on all forms of travel.

Lightning strikes the ground in Britain about 300,000 times a year. For climbers, fishermen, walkers, golfers, and other exposed people, it is important to consider how to minimise the risk.

 

What can I do?

When wind is forecast, keep up to date with weather warnings, and take the following actions when necessary:

 

Before the storm

  • Secure loose objects such as ladders, garden furniture or anything else that could be blown into windows or cause a danger to those in the area.
  • Check the weather forecast, and keep up to date with the latest weather warnings
  • Close and securely fasten doors and windows, particularly those on the windward side of the house, and especially large doors such as those on garages.
  • Check on vulnerable neighbours or relatives and help them to prepare
  • Park vehicles in a garage, if available; otherwise keep them clear of buildings, trees, walls and fences.
  • If the house is fitted with storm shutters over the windows, then ensure that these are closed and fastened.
  • If chimney stacks are tall and in poor condition, move beds away from areas directly below them.

 

During the storm

  • Keep up to date with the latest weather warnings and road conditions, and follow any travel advice from Police Scotland.
  • Take care when driving on exposed routes such as bridges, coastal routes or high open roads, and delay your journey or find alternative routes if necessary.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible - do not go outside to repair damage while the storm is in progress.
  • If you lose power, call 105 - its free of charge and will put you through to your local network operator who can give you help and advice.  Find more advice on our dedicated loss of utilities page.
  • If you do go out, try not to walk or shelter close to buildings and trees.
  • Keep away from the sheltered side of boundary walls and fences - if these structures fail, they will collapse on this side.
  • If possible, enter and leave your house through doors on the sheltered side, closing them behind you.
  • Open internal doors only as needed, and close them behind you.

 

After the storm

  • Be careful not to touch any electrical/telephone cables that have been blown down or are still hanging.  You can call 105 to report damage to electricity power lines and substations that could put you, or someone else, in danger. If there is a serious immediate risk, you should call the emergency services.
  • Try not to walk too close to walls, buildings and trees as they could have been weakened.
  • Make sure that any vulnerable neighbours or relatives are safe and help them make arrangements for any repairs

 

 

Although there is no absolute protection from lightning, measures can be taken to reduce the risk of getting struck.

 

Before the thunderstorm

  • Seek shelter if possible. When you hear thunder you are already within range of where the next ground flash may occur - lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from the centre of a storm.
  • Unplug all non-essential appliances, including the television, as lightning can cause power surges.

 

During the thunderstorm

  • Avoid using the phone, taps and sinks - telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity.
  • If outside, avoid water and find a low-lying open place that is a safe distance from trees, poles or metal objects.
  • Be aware of metal objects that can conduct or attract lightning, including golf clubs, golf buggies, fishing rods, umbrellas, motorbikes, bicycles, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, pushchairs, wire fencing and rails. If you are in a tent, try to stay away from the metal poles.
  • If you find yourself in an exposed location it may be advisable to squat close to the ground, with hands on knees and with head tucked between them. Try to touch as little of the ground with your body as possible, do not lie down on the ground.
  • If you feel your hair stand on end, drop to the above position immediately.

 

Where can I find out more?

Met Office guidance on staying safe in a storm can be found here.

The ROSPA fact sheet on lightning can be found here.

 

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