Traffic on England’s roads appeared to reduce by over a fifth during Storm Eunice, as drivers appeared to heed the advice of the Met Office, National Highways, the RAC and emergency responders to take precautions to stay safe during the strongest storm to impact England and Wales since February 2014.
According to National Highways, there was 21% less traffic than would normally be expected on England’s roads on 18 February, as two rare Met Office Red National Severe Weather Warnings came into force for Storm Eunice.
According to Met Office post-event surveys, 99% of people within the red warning area in the southeast were aware of the warnings, while 98% of those within the red warning area in southwest England and south Wales knew about the warning.
Storm Eunice came in the middle of a week which saw three named storms affecting the UK, the first time this has occurred since storm naming was introduced in 2015/2016. These storms came in a turbulent week of wet and windy weather for the UK, which was associated with a powerful jet stream.
Storm Eunice was the most severe and damaging storm of the three storms, bringing the strongest winds with gusts widely over 80mph for many southern areas of the UK and a new England gust speed record of 122mph being reached at an exposed station on the Isle of Wight.
Disruption was experienced for much of the UK, with a number of power cuts, fallen trees and delayed or cancelled trains.
While disruption on the roads was still keenly felt by those who had no choice but to head out in the conditions, 21% fewer vehicles took to the road in England, helping to lessen some of the traffic issues on blocked routes.
Melanie Clarke, Customer Service Director (Operations) for National Highways, said: “Storms Dudley, Eunice, and Franklin were some of the worst storms experienced in decades and certainly provided us with challenging conditions across our network of motorways and major A roads.
“Even though a lot of people heeded our advice not to travel, our army of traffic officers, control room operators and winter service teams were incredibly busy, keeping roads gritted, responding to incidents, and ensuring our network of motorways and major A roads remained safe.”
That reduction in traffic also helped to ease the burden on the RAC, who experienced a 16% reduction in callouts across the UK than would typically be expected in a day. It was a 34% reduction in callouts for Wales alone.
RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “These figures clearly show that, with enough notice and plenty of clear communication directly to the public, it is possible to change drivers’ behaviour during periods of severe weather. For us, less traffic on the roads during Storm Eunice led to fewer incidents and meant drivers – as well as our patrols – were kept safe.”
Early, accurate forecasts
Drivers, as well as local and national resilience groups, were aided by early, accurate forecasts from the Met Office, with Storm Eunice being named some four days before it struck.
Will Lang looks after managing severe weather events within the Met Office. He said: “While no one wants severe weather to impact their plans, it was vital for everyone’s safety that the public listened to the warnings and understood the risks during this week of impactful weather for the UK.
“We’re very pleased that our early warnings helped people make arrangements to avoid taking to the roads during Storm Eunice. Without that reduction in traffic, the impacts on the roads could have been much worse.”
With three storms in the week, Met Office forecasts aided critical services across the country to help people to stay safe. From helping the air traffic control service, NATS, to land aircraft in challenging conditions to working with emergency responders as impacts from the weather became clear.
When it really matters, critical services trust the Met Office to provide accurate weather forecasts which support planning and decision making. So you can be sure those forecasts will help you plan your everyday too.
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