As temperatures continue to soar, your mind might be on enjoying - or escaping - the sun. You may even be calling on the rain gods to provide some relief for your parched garden.
But with the Met Office warning of thunderstorms in the southeast and east of England, a sudden change in the weather could have consequences many people aren’t prepared for – flash floods.
“I think flood risk is a low priority for many people when we’re just loving this glorious weather,” says Mary Dhonau OBE, chief executive of Know Your Flood Risk and a champion for community-based flood resilience. “Floods are the last thing on their minds,” she adds.
Floods…. in the summer?
The prolonged hot and dry conditions have baked the ground hard. And if there is sudden, significant rainfall, the ground won’t be able to soak up the water. Instead, the deluge could overcome drainage or sewerage systems.
This has happened many times before - in 2012, for example, many areas of the country were badly hit by flash flooding, after storms that followed a long period of dry conditions. Worse still was the summer of 2007, when over 55,000 properties were flooded across England and Wales.
Everyone should be prepared
The Met Office warns that homes could quickly be flooded after the thunderstorms it is forecasting. And as well as floodwater, it says damage could be caused to some buildings from lightning strikes, hail or strong winds. Power cuts might occur and other services to some homes and businesses could be lost.
It’s not just homes in areas of well-known high flood risk that could be affected. Mary, who has herself been the victim of flooding, says: “Never say never. Surface water flooding poses a big threat because we’ve all paved over our drives. When water hits the ground, it hits the ground running. And because it’s so tinder dry, it will pose a much bigger threat to flood.”
Though it pays for everyone to be prepared, if you want to see if your home is at particular risk from floods, use the flood maps on the Gov.uk website. You just need to enter your door number and postcode.
What to do
There are things you can do to prepare yourself and your home to protect against floods, even at the last minute.
Mary recommends going to your local DIY story and buying "air brick covers" to help stop water from entering your home. These aren’t expensive and are easy to fit.
The classic flood protection measure is to install sandbags. But, Mary says: “They’re useless and an environmental hazard”. Instead she recommends buying flood sacks to do the same job. These are available online and are each capable of absorbing 21 litres of water, she says. These should be placed on both sides of your door.
And don’t forget to move your car to higher ground. “The last thing you want is a flooded car and a flooded house,” says Mary, “then you’ll have two insurance claims and you’re in the river without a paddle.”
Other simple tips to prepare for potential flooding, and to deal with the consequences, include:
- Sign up for flood alerts by phone, email or text message. These are available in England, Wales and Scotland, and come directly from the Environment Agency.
- Take detailed photos of your property and contents before an expected flood to help with any potential claim. If your home is flooded, call your insurance company as soon as you can.
- Move your valuables to a higher level.
- Use thick plastic sheeting to cover up any air vents, as these are a common entry route for flood water.
- Don’t walk in the water as it could be contaminated with sewage.
- If you leave your home during a flood you’ll need to turn off your mains water, gas and electricity if it’s safe to do so.
- Avoid driving on flooded roads. Don’t stop in standing water, and drive through the highest section of the road slowly.