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Weather forecasting to predict breakdowns as Beast from the East 2 looms

 Published 7th February 2023
Driver Guides  General Guides 

Most of us will take a look at the weather forecast to plan the week ahead, but who would have thought that a vehicle breakdown company would have its own in-house weather expert?

But that's exactly what Start Rescue has, with the breakdown service provider relying on the weather forecast so much it employs its own weather forecaster.

Weather forecasting is an important part of its business, especially with freezing temperatures potentially on their way later this month according to the Met Office's long-range forecasting team. With some referring to it as the “Beast from the East 2”, if the worst of the forecasts are to come about, it will stretch across the United Kingdom in late February/early March, significantly increasing call-outs.

Start Rescue's in-house weather specialist, Lee Wylie, constantly monitors the weather to help the breakdown firm be ready for anything.

By using weather forecasting to predict potential severe outcomes, vehicle breakdown providers are able to use data to track past issues and prepare for potential problems.

For example, Green Flag expects an increase in “non-start” call-outs of around 80% when a cold patch hits, as freezing temperatures play havoc with car batteries.

Previous cold spells have seen The AA experience 75% more call-outs when heavy snow falls, and many breakdown providers expect call-outs to rise at least 50% in bad weather.

By following weather patterns, additional staff can be brought in and rotas planned to provide extra cover required by Britain's drivers.

Lee Wylie explained: “As we all know, weather is difficult to predict, but at Start Rescue we operate by looking weeks ahead to best support our customers.

“There's much more to breakdown recovery than just predicting traffic flows, or peak periods - and therefore we constantly evaluate weather patterns year-round. We plan by making sure we have enough vehicle breakdown professionals and call agents in place to manage the extra demand.”

Lee Puffett, managing director of Start Rescue, says: “The hidden skill in the recovery business is being able to look into the future and spot potential severe weather outcomes. It's not just cold weather motorists are in danger of, the July 2022 heatwave brought the first recorded UK temperature of over 40 degrees Celsius.

“Unpredictable severe weather is becoming more common, and both cold and hot temperatures can affect all types of vehicles at the moment when you least expect it.”

Prof Adam Scaife, Head of Long-Range Forecasting at the Met Office, said: “There is now over 80% chance of a major Sudden Stratospheric Warming [an event that caused the Beast from the East in 2018] occurring. Although the impact will become clearer nearer the time, any effect on UK weather is most likely to occur in late February and March.”

To try and prevent the need to call out a a breakdown recovery service for your car, look at a few of the following tips to prepare your vehicle for extreme weather:

  • Only drive when necessary - Reduce short trips in the car, using it only when really needed.
  • Check your tyres - As the only point of contact between your car and the road, tyres are essential to keep things safe. Ensure tread depths are good - the minimum legal tread allowed is 1.6mm, but at least 3mm is recommended. Also check over tyre pressures to manufacturer recommendations, and look for cracks, bulges, or other damage.
  • Test the battery - Cold temperatures are a battery's enemy. Consider buying a battery tester and/or trickle charger. If the battery is old, make sure it's been fully charged before bad weather hits with a drive of more than a handful of miles.
  • Check all fluids - Windscreen wash with a lower freezing temperature not only helps keep your screen clean, but also helps cut through freezing weather - don't just use water and washing up liquid! Take a look at anti-freeze, oil, and coolant levels as cold weather thickens these and can cause issues. Don't run your car on fumes too, in case poor weather causes fuel supply problems.
  • Drive with care - As temperatures drop, stopping distances dramatically increase and visibility worsens. Take more time for a journey, drive with gentle application of the throttle and brakes, and don't risk rural routes unless necessary.
  • Get emergency ready - Pack an emergency kit of a little food and water, a battery pack to charge a mobile phone, and blankets/coats for all occupants.

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