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Storms: what you need to know

As we have entered the new storm season and the storm names have been announced, it is important to think more about storms, how they are formed, their potentially devastating impacts and whether you are resilient to them. It is essential to plan in advance, especially if you live in areas that may be more vulnerable, for example, those located next to rivers or on the coast. With the changing climate, some believe that storms will be more frequent.

Winter storms can bring some of the most severe and extreme weather events, including lower temperatures, gale-force winds and heavy precipitation, which can lead to flooding in some areas, or sleet and snow if the temperature is cold enough.  Storms occur at mid-latitudes where cold polar air meets warmer tropical air and the point where these two meet is known as the jet stream. Rising air from the Atlantic is removed and replaced by the strong winds of the jet stream a lot quicker than the air at lower levels and this reduction in pressure produces the strong winds of winter storms. Storms tend to form in the winter months when the temperature between the air masses is at its greatest.


storm names

On the 6th September 2019, the storm names for the 2019-20 season were announced by the Met Office and Met Éireann (the meteorological service in the Irish Public) who were joined this year by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), the Dutch national weather forecasting service).  The aim of naming storms is to raise awareness of the severe weather that a storm can bring before it hits, how dangerous they can be and the damaging effects they can have. In 2014, the Met Office decided to start giving storms boys and girls names, like they do in America. On the 10th November 2015, Storm Abigail was the first windstorm to be assigned a name. The names of the storms are selected from a list put forward by members of the public and they are selected based on popularity and how well they reflect the different cultures, nations and diversity in Britain and Ireland.  Only those storms that are suspected to cause considerable damage or cause an amber or red warning are give a name.

The 2018/19 storm season saw eight storms over eight months. Storm Ali was the first storm to be named on the 19th September 2018, which brought winds up to 90 mph across parts of the UK. The following storms were also named: Bronagh, Callum, Dierdre, Erik, Freya, Gareth and Hannah.


Storms can bring a wide range of disruptive and sometimes fatal weather events, these include heavy rain and flooding, strong winds, storm surges and freezing rain. Therefore it is important to keep as safe and resilient as you can against the potential impacts. On the 5th and 6th December 2015, Storm Desmond brought strong winds of up to 81 mph and heavy rainfall, with 341.4mm of rain falling in Cumbria by 6pm on the 5th (24 hours) – a new UK record! Many people across Cumbria and Lancashire were severely affected, 5200 homes were flooded and 61,000 homes in Lancaster lost power when the electrical substation was flooded. Many major roads were flooded across the north of England and Scotland and there was disruption to rail services, including a landslide which closed part of the West Coast mainline between Preston and Carlisle.

Many homes and businesses were destroyed across the north of England and twelve months on (December 2016), 1 in 5 homeowners were yet to return home.  Planning in advance of a storm will help to increase resilience and reduce the potential impacts of any flooding, high winds and/or tidal surges.


Rose and Trev Clough / Floodwater in Caldewgate / CC BY-SA 2.0


If you were affected by any recent storms, such as Storm Desmond in 2015, are you more prepared now than you were before? Our ‘How to reduce the impact of flooding’ blog provides an overview of some of the ways you can prepare for a potential flood, for example, identifying a warning trigger, having a plan and installing property level flood resilience. Even if you have never flooded before, excess rainfall from a storm could lead to flash flooding or surface water flooding as drainage capacity can be exceeded. This was the case in Millom in 2017, so it is still important to prepare, even if you don’t live by a river or the coast.

Download our ‘How to reduce the impact of flooding: five steps to flood resilience’ resource here, which offers advice on how you can become more resilient to flooding.


Sources used: Met Office, BBC

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