Motorists are being asked to get ready for severe weather by Highways England as Storm Doris begins to take hold.
An amber alert for gales will be in place across the North, Midlands and East between 6am and 6pm on tomorrow in response to the strong winds and heavy rain forecast during Storm Doris.
The A19 Hylton Bridge over the River Wear in Sunderland, the Tees Viaduct over the same route and on the Leven Viaduct, near Teesside, are all highlighted as areas where drivers could be at risk, as is the whole of the A69, which takes traffic from Newcastle to Carlisle.
Gusts of up to 70mph are expected on some roads, along with heavy rain and surface water.
There is a particularly high risk to high-sided vehicles, caravans and motorbikes on exposed sections of the network.
Drivers of these vehicles are being strongly advised to avoid travelling on around 40 stretches of motorway and major A road while the alert is in place (see Notes to Editors for details).
Richard Leonard, Highways England’s head of road safety, said: “We’re expecting Storm Doris to have a significant impact on the roads throughout the day tomorrow so are urging drivers to consider changing their plans if necessary and to slow down in stormy weather.
“Drivers should look out for warnings on the electronic message signs and listen for updates in radio travel bulletins.
"Our traffic officers will also be ready to respond to any incidents during Storm Doris, and we’re urging drivers to respond to the changing conditions on the road to stay safe.”
Earlier this winter, Highways England launched a new safety campaign warning drivers that ‘when it rains, it kills’ after the latest statistics showed that people are 30 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured on the roads in rain than in snow.
The figures also reveal that travelling too fast for the current conditions was identified as a factor in one in nine road deaths in Great Britain last year, with drivers failing to alter how they drive in response to changing conditions on the road.
It generally takes at least twice as long to stop on a wet road as on a dry road because tyres have less grip on the surface. In wet weather you should:
*Slow down if the rain and spray from vehicles is making it difficult to see and be seen;
*Keep well back from the vehicle in front as this will increase your ability to see and plan ahead; and
*Ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually if the steering becomes unresponsive as it probably means that water is preventing the tyres from gripping the road.
A new road safety video has also been produced which shows rain falling inside the home of a family imagined to have been involved in a serious road collision.
Following Met Office warnings for Storm Doris, Northern Powergrid, the company responsible for the network which delivers electricity to homes and businesses across the region, is assuring its customers that it is prepared should the forecasted snow and strong winds affect its network.
The weather is expected to hit across Northern Powergrid’s operating area from the early hours of Thursday morning continuing through to the evening.
Rod Gardner, its head of network operations, said: “We’re monitoring the weather very closely and are already taking action to ensure that we have extra engineers ready to restore power and repair any damage to our network caused by Storm Doris.
"We will have additional advisors at our local 24-hour contact centre – who can be reached by calling the new, free 105 power cut number - as well as teams in other locations around our business who will be ready to offer our customers support and advice. We have also postponed any routine planned work.
“Our website, northernpowergrid.com, has an easy-to-use power cut map and reporting service which our customers can use to report a power cut and get updates about what we’re doing to get their lights back on. We’re also urging our customers to take a few minutes to add 105 and bookmark our website on their mobile phones so they are ready to use our services if they need to. They may also want to watch our short and informative videos, which will help them know exactly what to do if they do have a power cut.”
Northern Powergrid’s 24/7 Twitter (@northpowergrid) and Facebook pages will also provide regular updates and advice to customers and local communities.
Customers with a disability, medical condition or very young families, who may need greater assistance during a power cut and who have signed up to the company’s Priority Services Register, will be kept updated as a priority.
Anyone interested in joining the Priority Services Register can sign up online via Northern Powergrid’s website or call 0800 169 2996.
Northern Powergrid is also ready to use its customer support vehicles, wherever possible, during any potential prolonged power cut to help local communities by offering practical support such as stay-warm packs and hot drinks. Its partnership with the British Red Cross will also help provide additional care to customers on the register, when necessary.
Northern Powergrid is urging anyone who spots any damaged cables or other equipment not to approach the area, but to report it immediately by calling 105 the new, free, easy-to-remember national phone line which will route people to Northern Powergrid.
The electricity distributor can also be contacted on 0800 66 88 77 in the North East and 0800 375 675 in Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire.
Power cut advice and tips include:
*Bookmark Northern Powergrid’s online power cut map and reporting service on your mobile devices – www.northernpowergrid.com/power-cuts
*Have a charged mobile phone with important numbers, including 105 the new, free national power cut phone line, easily accessible.
*Turn off electrical appliances at the socket (this is particularly important for heating or cooking appliances as your power could be restored at any time and potentially cause a safety hazard)
*Keep one light switched on so you know when power is restored
*Keep a battery or wind-up torch handy – they’re much safer than candles
*Check on your elderly or sick neighbours and relatives
*Ensure you have warm clothing and blankets handy and some food and drink in your home that does not require electricity to heat or prepare it
*Only call 999 in the event of an emergency.
Drivers of high-sided vehicles, caravans and motorbikes are being advised to avoid the following stretches of road while the severe weather alert is in place:
North East and Yorkshire:
A19 Hylton Bridge over River Wear
A19 Tees Viaduct
A19 Leven Viaduct
A69 Entire route
M1 J32 - M18 interchange
M1 J34 Tinsley Viaduct/Rotherham
M1 J39-J40 Crigglestone to Dewsbury
A628 Woodhead Pass
M62 J23-J25 Huddersfield to Brighouse
M62 J31-J32 Normanton to Pontefract
M62 J35a-J36 Rawcliffe Bridge, M18 interchange to J36 Goole
M62 J36-J37 River Ouse / Ouse Bridge
A1(M) J47-J49 Between A59 Knaresborough and A168 Dishforth
A1(M) J58-J65 Between A1 and Washington at J65
A66 Between M6 J40 - A1 (Scotch Corner)