24 January 2024

Is it safe to go for a walk in high winds?

24 January 2024

As Storm Jocelyn hits the UK with high winds, the Met Office has said more bad weather is still to come.

It has caused travel disruption across the country, including eight flights being cancelled at Dublin Airport and four at Glasgow Airport on Tuesday evening.

The strongest winds of up to 80mph were expected between 3am and 7am on Wednesday, before the storm eases off throughout the day.

“This week’s predicted weather could lead to dangerous and uncertain conditions as strong winds and heavy rain hit the UK and Ireland,” said RNLI national water safety partner, Tim Doran.

So is it still safe to go for walks when there are high winds? Here, experts explain everything you need to know if you’d still like to be outdoors.

How windy is too windy to go for walks outside?

“Anything above 40mph is significant,” said Richie Conway, the director at London Adventure Group, who organises hiking events both in the UK and overseas.

“[There will be] flying debris, falling branches or trees, [which makes it] difficult to walk and [find your] balance. Stay off any high grounds as the winds are more compressed higher up.”

Matt Atkinson, HM Coastguard divisional commander for the north of England, said everyone needs to check the forecast and the tide times in their area before they go out in stormy conditions and adhere to the advice given by the Met Office’s weather alerts.

“The first thing to do is consider, ‘Is it safe to go out at all?’ and if there is any doubt, play it safe and stay home.”

What are the main dangers to walkers?

If you live near the coast, or plan on visiting, the RNLI advise the public to stay a safe distance from the water.According to the charity, around 140 people lose their lives at the UK and Irish coasts each year, and more than half of them never even planned to enter the water.“During stormy weather, there is a heightened danger of large and powerful waves that can knock you off your feet and drag you out to sea, so stay well back from the water’s edge. It might seem like fun, but playing chicken with waves, especially during bad weather, can be deadly,” said Atkinson.

“Cliff edges are also much more likely to crumble during or following a period of bad weather and we advise that walkers stay well back from both the top and the bottom.

“Storms might look incredible, but the perfect selfie is never worth risking your life for.”

Doran added: “It is not worth risking your life. If you have children with you, make sure they’re aware of the risks too, and that they stay with your group well back from the water’s edge.

“Cold water shock is a very real danger for anyone entering water that is 15 degrees Celsius or below and at this time of year, we can expect temperatures of 6 to 10 degrees Celsius,” he said.

If you find yourself in trouble unexpectedly in the water, remember to ‘Float to Live’ – “Lie back in the water, extend your arms and legs and try to relax as best as you can until you get control of your breathing,” he explained.

“Remember, if you see someone else in danger in the water, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard if by the coast. If you have something that floats that they can hold on to, throw it to them. Don’t go in the water yourself – you may end up in difficulty too.”

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