This year's 'beast from the east' is gone - food water presents next challenge

splash by a car as it goes through flood water

splash by a car as it goes through flood water - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Devon County councillor for Highways Stuart Hughes writes for this title.

Cllr Stuart Hughes. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 3456-10-11AW

Cllr Stuart Hughes. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 3456-10-11AW - Credit: Archant

Well hopefully we’ve seen the back of this winters Beast from the East although there could still be a snowy sting in the tail.

One thing that is guaranteed and that’s the next named storm isn’t far away and with it the potential for further flooding whether it be tidal, fluvial or surface water flooding across the highway network.

The Environment Agency give advance warnings of sea or river-related flooding, but surface water flooding from heavy rain or gullys that can't cope is harder to predict and can be very localised.

So here’s some sound advice If you hear there’s flooding on the way, move your car to higher ground to stop it getting damaged. Water plays havoc with electrics and can even cause airbags to go off suddenly some time later.

In heavy rain turn your headlights on especially when visibility is reduced to less than 100metres. Leave twice as much space between you and the car in front – it takes longer to stop in the wet. 

If your steering feels light due to aquaplaning, ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually. If you break down make sure you don't prop the bonnet open while you wait, as rain soaked electrics can make it harder to start the engine.

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Don't drive into flood water that’s moving or more than 10cm (4 inches) deep.Let approaching cars pass first. Drive slowly and steadily so you don’t make a bow wave. Test your brakes as soon as you can afterwards.

Fast-moving water is very powerful – take care or your car could be swept away.

If you do get stuck in flood water, it's usually best to wait in the car and call for help rather than try to get out.

Driving fast through water is dangerous, your tyres can lose contact with the road, causing you to lose steering control – called aquaplaning. If you feel it happening, hold the steering lightly and lift of accelerator to slow down gently until your tyres grip again.

At anything above a slow crawl you’ll throw water onto pavements, soaking pedestrians or cyclists is an offence and carry’s a fine and penalty points on your licence.

Were you aware that it only takes an egg cupful of water to be sucked into your engine to wreck it, and on many modern cars the engine’s air intake is low down at the front.

Be alert as manhole covers can get lifted by pressure of water and moved.

There are several fords across Devon so remember just because the road goes into the river on one side and comes out on the other, that doesn’t mean a ford is safe to cross. The depth and speed of the water changes with the weather.

And finally here are some loodwater facts: 

  • Most drowning deaths happen within only 3m of a safe point.
  • Two thirds of those who die in flood-related accidents are good swimmers.
  • A third (32 per cent) of flood-related deaths are in vehicles.
  • Cold water reduces your muscle strength – 20 minutes in water at 12C lowers muscle temperature from 37ºC to 27ºC, reducing strength by 30 per cent.
  • Just 15cm of fast-flowing water can knock you off your feet and be enough for you not to be able to regain your footing.
  • It's a challenge to stand in waist-deep water flowing at only 1m/s. By 1.8m/s (4mph) everyone is washed off their feet.
  • If the speed of the flood water doubles, the force it exerts on you/your car goes up four times.
  • Just 60cm of standing water will float your car.
  • Just 30cm of flowing water could be enough to move your car.
  • A mere egg cupful of water could be enough to wreck an engine.
  • Flood water can be contaminated and carry diseases.
  • Culverts (tunnels carrying water under a road) are dangerous when flooded – the siphon effect can drag in pets, children and even fully grown adults. Stay alert and stay safe.

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