UK heatwave: Met Office issues first ever red extreme heat warning

UK heatwave: Met Office issues first ever red heat warning - Yui Mok /PA
UK heatwave: Met Office issues first ever red heat warning – Yui Mok /PA

The Met Office has issued the first ever red alert for hot weather, warning there is a “very likely” risk to life.

Grahame Madge, Met Office spokesman, said: “We’ve just issued a red warning for extreme heat for Monday and Tuesday which is the first such warning ever issued.”

“The warning covers an area from London up to Manchester and then up to the Vale of York.”

“This is potentially a very serious situation.”

The Met Office are advising people to “take action now to keep yourself and others safe” and avoid travelling where possible.

Forecasters say there is an 80 per cent chance of the mercury topping the UK’s record temperature of 38.7C set in Cambridge in 2019, with the current heatwave set to peak on Tuesday.

UK heatwave: Met Office issues first ever red heat warning - Met Office
UK heatwave: Met Office issues first ever red heat warning – Met Office

Mr Madge said there is a 50 per cent chance of temperatures reaching 40C somewhere in the UK, likely along the A1 corridor.

“If we get to 40C, that’s a very iconic threshold and shows that climate change is with us now,” he said.

“This is made much more likely because of climate change.”

‘National emergency’ health warning

The UK Health Security Agency has increased its heat health warning from level three to level four – a “national emergency”.

Level four is reached “when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system…. At this level, illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups”, it said.

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, asked people on Twitter to look out for each other.

Penny Endersby, Met Office chief executive, said in a sombre video shared online: “The extreme heat that we’re forecasting right now is absolutely unprecedented.

“We’ve seen when climate change has driven such unprecedented severe weather events all around the world it can be difficult for people to make the best decisions in these situations because nothing in their life experience has led them to know what to expect.”

“Here in the UK we’re used to treating a hot spell as a chance to go and play in the sun. This is not that sort of weather.”

“Our lifestyles and our infrastructure are not adapted to what is coming.”

“Please treat the warnings we are putting out as seriously as you would a red or amber warning from us for wind or snow and follow the advice. Stay out of the sun, keep your home cool, think about adjusting your plans for the warning period.”

‘Substantial changes to working practices’

“Substantial disruption” is expected to travel and energy supplies, while there may also be widespread damage to property and infrastructure, according to the Met Office’s website.

People will need to make “substantial changes in working practices and daily routines“, the weather agency said.

Downing Street has not issued work from home guidance during the heatwave.

A No 10 spokesman said: “Different sectors and different professions may have different staffing requirements, it wouldn’t be for me to set out a broad policy for everybody, that would be a matter for individuals and their employers.”

Britain will suffer “delays on roads and road closures, along with delays and cancellations to rail and air travel, with significant welfare issues for those who experience even moderate delays.”

Motorists have been told to try and make their journeys outside of the hottest times of the day, particularly if they have older cars.

Gritters out with sand to stop ‘roads melting’

Sean Sidley, AA patrol of the year, said: “There are reports of road gritters being out (with sand) this weekend to reduce the chances of our roads melting.

“If it does get sticky on the roads, there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a jam with the mercury rising, so make sure you carry plenty of water – at least a litre per person – and sufficient fuel, or if you’re driving an electric vehicle (EV) make sure you have plenty of charge so you can use the air conditioning when needed.”

RAC Breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “We anticipate there could be around 15-20 per cemt more breakdowns on Monday and Tuesday, which equates to more than 1,000 extra people needing help each day.”

UK heatwave: Met Office issues first ever red heat warning - Kirsty O'Connor /PA
UK heatwave: Met Office issues first ever red heat warning – Kirsty O’Connor /PA

A No 10 spokesman said railway speed restrictions may be needed on “some parts of the network next week to manage the hot weather and to avoid any potential damage”.

Jake Kelly, of Network Rail, warned that journeys will take “significantly longer and delays are likely as speed restrictions are introduced to keep passengers and railway staff safe”, urging people to travel only if absolutely necessary on Monday and Tuesday.

The organisation said response teams will be deployed to mitigate the impact of the extreme heat where possible, but passengers are likely to experience disruption if current forecasts are realised.

Steel rails absorb heat easily and tend to be around 20 degrees above the surrounding air temperature. When steel becomes very hot it expands and rails can bend, flex and, in serious cases, buckle.

The overhead electric lines which power trains in some parts of the country are also susceptible to faults in extreme temperatures when the steel wires overheat, which can cause them to hang too low and increase the risk of getting caught on passing trains and knocking out the electricity supply.

Tim Doran, from the RNLI Water Safety Team, said the service is anticipating a “busy weekend” at the coast for its lifeboat crews and lifeguards.

“If you are planning on going to the beach, we would encourage you to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags,” he said.

UK heatwave: Met Office issues first ever red heat warning
UK heatwave: Met Office issues first ever red heat warning

RAC Breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “We anticipate there could be around 15-20 per cemt more breakdowns on Monday and Tuesday, which equates to more than 1,000 extra people needing help each day.”

The amber warning for extreme heat for much of England and Wales had been put in place until the end of Tuesday, with the hot spell expected to peak at the start of next week, but has now been upgraded.

Following a Cobra meeting yesterday, Cabinet Office minister Kit Malthouse said the government is preparing for a “surge” in demand on the NHS and other services due to the expected heatwave.

Britain was last placed under a red weather warning during storm Eunice in November last year, during which high winds caused £360m worth of damage, including ripping part of the roof off the O2 Arena.

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