[H]ighways England is advising drivers to take care and be prepared for strong gales throughout the day as the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia moves north and eastwards across the country.
Motorists, particularly those driving high-sided HGVS, caravans and motorcycles, are advised to check the weather and driving conditions before setting out on journeys and pay particular attention to exposed locations such as coastal and high lying areas and bridges which could be affected by the high winds.
Wind speeds across the South West region are currently between 30mph and 40mph but the Met Office is anticipating gusts of between 40 to 50mph on high areas, sweeping up from the region to the north from 3pm until 10pm
Christian Morgan, Operations Manager in Highways England’s South West region, said: “We’re encouraging drivers to check the latest weather and travel conditions before setting off on journeys.
“In high winds, there’s a particular risk to lorries, caravans and motorbikes so we’d advise drivers of these vehicles to slow down.
“Drivers of other vehicles should be aware of sudden gusts of wind, and give high-sided vehicles, caravans, and motorbikes plenty of space. In the event of persistent high winds we may need to close bridges to traffic for a period, so please be alert for warnings of closures and follow signed diversion routes.”
Unladen curtain-sided vehicles are particularly vulnerable to windy conditions on high ground.
And Mr Morgan added: “Curtains on empty high-sided vehicles can act as sails when closed, and when high winds arise, we advise HGV drivers to open their curtain-sided vehicles if they are empty.”
A Freight Transport Association advisory states “When driving an empty curtain-sided vehicle, tie both curtain sides at one end of the vehicle to reduce the effect of side winds”.
HGV drivers are advised by the DVSA to check load security as part of their daily walkaround check. Further details of the walk around check can be found on GOV.UK.
Met Office Chief Forecaster Paul Gundersen said: “Ophelia weakened on Sunday night and is now no longer classified as a hurricane. That said, storm force to hurricane force winds of up to 80mph across Northern Ireland, and some areas bordering the Irish Sea will result in travel disruption, power cuts and some damage to buildings such as tiles being blown from roofs.
“National Severe Weather Warnings are in place for Northern Ireland, and other western and northern parts of Britain for Monday afternoon and evening and everyone in these areas should prepare for longer travel journeys and ensure they take the necessary precautions to ensure they and their families and property are safe.”
The rest of the UK will have a windy day, but wind gusts are not expected to bring widespread disruption.
Matt Crofts is a Lifesaving Manager with the RNLI. He said: “The severe weather which is due to hit parts of the UK and Ireland early next week could make our seas particularly dangerous and unpredictable, with large waves and swells being a major risk.
“Stormy conditions may be tempting to watch but big waves can easily knock you off your feet. The sea is far more powerful than you think and your chances of survival are slim if you are dragged into the swell. Our volunteer lifeboat crews will always launch to rescue those in danger at sea, but to launch into conditions like these could also put their lives at risk.
“We understand why people want to experience extreme weather, but it’s not worth risking your life, so we strongly urge people to respect the water and watch from a safe distance. If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. Don’t enter the water yourself as you could also end up in serious danger.”
Temperatures across large parts of southern and eastern England are expected to exceed 20 °C on Monday, with isolated spots possibly reaching 24 °C. The average maximum temperature for England in October is around 14 °C. The high temperatures are, in part, due to the influence of ex-Ophelia which will draw up very warm air from Spain on its eastern flank.
An interesting phenomena that is a result of the movement of ex-Ophelia is the colour of the sky and the sun this morning (Monday), and dust on cars. The same southerly winds that have brought us the current warmth have also drawn dust from the Sahara to our latitudes and the dust scatters the blue light from the sun letting more red light through much as at sunrise or sunset.
Road users are being advised to follow messages on any overhead signs and listen to radio updates. Further information can be found by visiting www.trafficengland.com or calling the Highways England Information Line on 0300 123 5000.
More advice on driving in windy weather is available from the Met Office.