Communities across southern and south west England urged to prepare for risk of flooding.
Heavy rain and high winds
Heavy rain and high winds are set to sweep back in to England on Monday bringing an increased risk of flooding from swollen rivers and surface water collected on roads to many parts of the country, particularly southern and south west England.
The Environment Agency and Met Office are also warning that parts of the Midlands could be affected by river and surface water flooding on Monday into Christmas Eve. People are also urged to stay away from promenades along the south coast on Monday and Tuesday because of the wet and windy conditions.
Rivers that are slow to respond to rainfall - like the lower reaches of the River Severn - could also pose a flood risk into Boxing Day.
People who are set to be away for the festive period are urged to check the flood risk for their local area and, if necessary, take steps to protect valuable items left at home.
Drivers are also urged to check the latest flood updates ahead of their journey - and urged not to drive through dangerous floodwater.
The warning comes after a joint Environment Agency and AA survey found more than half (54%) of UK drivers - around 18million drivers - would endanger themselves and their vehicles by driving through moving flood water.
The research of 21,165 AA members, carried out by Populus*, also revealed that more than a quarter (27%) of respondents would drive through moving flood water deeper than 30cm, which is enough to move a car.
The Environment Agency and the AA strongly advise not entering flood water that is moving or more than 10cm deep.
A third of flood-related deaths involve a vehicle because drivers take unnecessary risks and last year, the second wettest on record in the UK, claimed the lives of several motorists. In the same period, the AA rescued almost 9,000 vehicles that had driven through or were stuck in flood water, with an estimated insurance bill of more than £34 million.
David Jordan, Director of Operations at the Environment Agency, said: “Tragically people die because they’ve taken risks and attempted to drive through flood water just to save a few minutes. Flood water is dangerous. If there is widespread flooding in your area then don’t travel and if a road is closed then turn around and make a detour. Your journey could take you a little longer but making the right decision could ultimately save your life.
“Unsettled weather is set to continue throughout the Christmas period, with heavy rain and wind affecting many parts of England, so people should check the flood forecast on the Environment Agency website to help plan - and sign up to flood warnings.”
Darron Burness, head of the AA’s flood rescue team, said: "The 9,000 vehicles driven into flood water that the AA attended last year tell only half the story. There are thousands of other drivers who, perhaps unwittingly, came so close to coming a cropper. Three-quarters of cars that get stuck are written-off as it only takes a tiny amount of ingested water to wreck the engine. You're also putting yourself at risk as flood water can mask all manner of hazards, for example open manholes, and just one foot or 30 centimetres of moving water can float your car.
"Moving flood water, particularly, is powerful, relentless and deceptively dangerous, so just stay out."
Throughout the festive period, Environment Agency teams will be out checking flood defences, monitoring river levels and supporting local authorities who will respond to any reports of surface water flooding.
People are encouraged to check the Environment Agency website for the latest flood information, follow #floodaware on Twitter and sign up to free flood warnings.
Met Office weather forecasts and warnings can be found on the Met Office website and you can follow the Met Office on Twitter at @metoffice and Facebook.
Chief Forecaster Eddy Carroll said: "We can expect stormy weather in many areas to start the Christmas week, but looking forward to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we are expecting it to turn colder, with a mix of wintry showers and sunny spells but for wind speeds to drop. So there is a chance that some places may see a White Christmas.
"Throughout this unsettled spell Met Office forecasters and advisors are working round the clock with our partners to keep everyone up to date with the latest forecast information so they can plan and prepare for the expected weather."
Notes to Editors
The figure for the number of UK drivers that would ignore road closed signs and drive through flood water has been calculated based on the percentages in the survey being applied to the total number of driving licence holders in the UK, which currently stands at around 34 million.
*Populus interviewed 21,165 adults aged 18+ on The AA/Populus online panel between 11-17 October 2013. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
The survey also found that:
*more than two-fifths (42%) of drivers would blindly follow the vehicle in front if it had crossed a flooded road successfully; *the equivalent of 680,000 drivers would ignore a ‘road closed’ warning sign and drive down a flooded road rather than take a short detour – this is dangerous, an offence and insurers could reject any flood damage claim; *people aged between 55 and 64 are most likely to risk driving through the deepest flowing flood water (up to 34cm); *men would attempt to drive through deeper water (up to 34cm) than women (up to 27cm); and those living in North East England would attempt to drive through deeper water (up to 34cm) than anywhere else in the UK.
About the AA:
The AA is the UK’s biggest motoring organisation. It has its own flood rescue team, AA Special Operations, which supports the AA’s regular patrol force and is deployed in severe weather using adapted Land Rover Defenders. The AA team has a weather blog and you can follow them on Twitter (#thinkdontsink): @AASORT