i Deputy Editor's Letter: Why are we woefully unprepared for extreme weather?

 

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The Independent Online

 

There are many traits that can be attributed to the stereotypical Briton – among them afternoon tea, a stiff upper lip and a love of queuing. But perhaps the first thing that springs to mind is our apparent obsession with the weather. Even Oscar Wilde famously described this topic of conversation as “the last refuge of the unimaginative”.

While he may have a point in mid-August, his words hardly apply to the thousands seeking refuge this week, as the country braces for “another” round of 30ft waves, tidal surges and giant hailstones. With large areas of Britain still recovering from a Christmas to forget, with flooding and widespread blackouts, even David Cameron was compelled to get in on the act yesterday, tweeting: “I’m ensuring that all is being done to help with the floods. There’ll be a Cobra meeting shortly and regular updates.”

Living in a temperate climate, we should expect most types of weather: cold, wet and windy in the winter; hot, dry and sunny in the summer. Our extremes are comparatively minor when you glance across the Atlantic. The Eastern Seaboard of the US is in the midst of a major winter storm, with more than 2ft of snow and temperatures as low as -25C. Understandably, they are experiencing travel problems. In July temperatures reached 40C.

But why in Britain do we always seem so woefully unprepared? We’re good at short-term solutions with sandbags and pumps, but more permanent answers seem beyond us. Perhaps Mark Twain’s words carry better advice for the Prime Minister: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.”

i@independent.co.uk

Twitter.com: @jonesrhodri

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