Christmas flood warning

Don't get 'stocking' flood water this christmas, says AA and Environment Agency

Christmas Eve 2013 was the busiest day in the last five years for flood rescues

Christmas Eve 2013 was the busiest day in the last five years for flood rescues

The AA and the Environment Agency are reminding drivers to stay out of flood water as they head off for Christmas after revealing that last Christmas Eve was the busiest day in the last five years for flood rescues.

On that single day, the AA alone rescued 642 vehicles from flood water with many coming to grief in swollen fords. The Environment Agency issued 450 flood warnings and alerts on the same day.

#ThinkDontSink

Last Christmas Eve busiest day since 2009 for cars stuck in flooding

  • 642 vehicles stuck in flood water with most written off
  • 450 Environment Agency flood warnings and alerts issued on the same day
  • Drivers would risk 36cm of moving flood water on average
  • But just 30cm of flowing water can float car

How deep would you go?

In a new poll of 19,887 AA members, the average maximum depth of flowing flood water that respondents would be happy to drive through rather than turn back is 36cm – an increase of 4cm from October 2013 – but it only takes as little as 30cm to float a car.

More than a third (35%) would have no qualms about driving through water deeper than 30cm; and, more alarmingly, eight per cent (6% male vs 13% female) said they would enter flowing flood water more than a metre deep.

Those in Wales, Eastern England and the South-west gave the lowest depths (34cm each); and drivers in North-east England and Northern Ireland would put themselves at the greatest risk (38cm and 39cm, respectively).

Overall, more than four-fifths (81%) would enter water more than 10cm deep but the AA and the Environment Agency advise drivers not to enter flood water that is moving or more than 10cm (4in) deep.

no one wants to be writing a last-minute letter to Father Christmas after wrecking their car in flood water

John Seymour, National Manager AA SORT

Go the long way round if unsure

John Seymour, national manager of the AA’s flood rescue team, said: “In the Christmas dash, it’s understandable that sometimes people’s minds are elsewhere but no one wants to be writing a last-minute letter to Father Christmas after wrecking their car in flood water.

Fords are a particular hazard as they can look quite benign and people often just assume they’re safe to cross without checking the depth gauge but they can quickly become impassable, particularly following heavy rain.

“If you’re at all unsure, it’s safer to go the long way round rather than put yourself and your vehicle at risk.”

Our flood warning information on GOV.UK is updated every 15 minutes and can help anyone plan a safe journey

John Curtin, Environment Agency

Hundreds took risks

John Curtin, director of incident management and resilience at the Environment Agency said: “Hundreds of drivers took risks on their way to visit friends and family last Christmas Eve and had to be rescued even though we issued 450 flood warnings and alerts on the same day.

“If you’re in any doubt then turn around and find a detour – that’s far less inconvenient than losing your vehicle and potentially your life. Our flood warning information on GOV.UK is updated every 15 minutes and can help anyone plan a safe journey.”

Don't drive through flood water - AA and Environment Agency infographic

Don't drive through floodwater

Local river levels

As well as signing up to the Environment Agency’s flood warnings, the AA is encouraging people to use Shoothill GaugeMap to enable them to ‘follow’ their local river/tide level on Twitter and receive status updates twice a day.

GaugeMap uses live data from over Environment Agency 2,400 river and tide level monitoring gauges at key points on rivers and estuaries across England and Wales. Sensors record the water level at 15 minute intervals 24/7.

Knowing how local water levels are changing will help you decide if/when you should be taking action.


(19 December 2014)