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Energy advisor and environmental researcher Peter Gudde says that if the recent storms have taught us anything, it's 'Be Prepared'

There’s really only one thing to cover this month and certainly this winter, and that is how wet and windy it has been.

The last four weeks of Ciara and Dennis have left parts of the country in devastation. Whether Dennis has been a storm, a hurricane or major hurricane is probably a bit irrelevant. It's been wet and very, very windy.

I think in North Suffolk we may have got away with it so far when others have really suffered. Storm Ciara left us without power for about five hours, my allotment shed blew over and the odd bit of clothing has disappeared from the washing line and is probably now adorning a hedge near the East coast.

Peter Gudde
Peter Gudde

Dennis felt like one of those scenes from an Antarctic expedition but without the snow or huskies. The wind was howling so loudly I thought we’d certainly see some damage to the house. Each morning I checked with some anxiety to see if we’d got away with it. Across the road a large tree is now leaning at a very precarious angle and when, not if, it falls it will partially block the traffic. The ditches around us are close to full and there is now a ford – just by the soon-to-be-horizontal tree. Drivers beware!

Dealing with more frequent extreme weather is highly likely in the coming years. Global warming is not about balmier winters or being able to grow exotic fruit all year round. That is a misreading of the words global and warming. The warming creates a more excitable world-wide atmosphere like a pan that is starting to boil. This excitability creates disturbances in the circulation of the air which can lead to a whole mixed bag of different weather events locally – from one extreme to another. This time it’s wind and rain in the UK; look at Australia recently and it’s been extreme heat and drought.

We will have to cope with more of these events. We will have to adapt, whether that’s by preparing better to prevent the worst from affecting our lifestyles or responding more effectively when flooding or high temperatures hit.

Some of the response has inevitably got to come from big government, whether that’s through national policy, investing in major flood alleviation or centrally coordinated actions taken locally. Part of the solution should be better planning rules about where and how homes are built, putting in drainage systems that allow the water to get away naturally, and deciding on where flood protection is and is not provided in the most at risk places.

Landowners big and small are responsible for maintaining ditches, drains and pipes to allow water to flow away although this can be shared with a neighbour where the watercourse is the ownership boundary. This preventative maintenance is important even if there is rarely any water flowing. When we do get a deluge, we will need that ditch working, believe me.

We as householders, local businesses and local communities also have to carry some of the load. Some local communities have set up their own flood resilience plans which they can call upon when bad weather hits. This may involve using the local community centre as a hub for essential supplies or communication.

For local businesses, it’s not just about where your buildings are, it could be one of your key suppliers who gets flooded and is out of business for several months. What would happen to your trade if they were flooded and you could not find an alternative supplier?

And more immediately, having a power cut even for a short time can be life threatening for someone vulnerable to the cold or heat or rely on medical equipment. So, the local power network operator offers specific support through its Priority Services Register to those who could be affected. By registering, you will be able to access additional support in the event of a power loss.

So, getting sound advice on how to prepare will save time, effort now and pay back in the long run when the wild winds blow and the hard rain falls.

For more advice:

Preparing your community - https://www.suffolkresilience.com/prepare-your-community

The Priority Services Register https://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/power-cut/priority-services-register

Flood management in Suffolk - https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/flooding-and-drainage/flood-management-in-suffolk/#tab4