7 Feb 2014

Rain, Rain Go Away - I'm Bored Of You Now

We who live in the UK do so because it has a high standard of living, low crime, a good economy, a stable government, high quality housing, a moral(ish) and decent society and a temperate climate.

The definition of a temperate climate is one where the changes between the seasons are relatively moderate, i.e. we do not get extremely hot summers or extremely cold winters.  It's true, we don't.  But we do get shitloads of rain and I'm sick to the back teeth of it.

Storms gather over the Atlantic, pick up tons and tons of water then drop it on the first piece of land they can find, which is the UK.  January 2014 was the wettest in history and February isn't looking much better.

Our ground is soggy, some of our homes are underwater and our roads are falling apart.  I live on a valley floor in West Berkshire, not quite on a flood plain but surrounded by places that are.  The River Kennet and all its tributaries are full to bursting and frequently dump excess water into fields and roads.  The Kennet and Avon Canal is just behind the house and the water level is 2 inches below the banks today.

The route to my son's school is one of the few roads where the road hasn't flooded but the fields either side are now lakes.  Drive anywhere else though and you have to drive through some section of flooded road or other.

And it's this that is the subject of this blog.  (See, I got round to a car related subject in the end)

It can be 20 yards of road underwater or it can be half a mile, it can be 2 inches deep or 2 feet.  If you don't know the road you don't know how deep it's going to be.  Sometimes even if you do know the road you can't be sure.

Here's a video I filmed recently.

I'd tried to travel up a section of road to get to our local shop but it was flooded.  I was in my BMW 3-series and parked up before the flood, put my wellies on and waded in to check the depth.  It got to 10 inches and I turned around, knowing the BM wouldn't make it without ingesting water into the engine, which would kill it.

So I returned in our Land Rover Discovery, went to the shop, then drove backwards and forwards through the water just for the hell of it.

There's another road that frequently floods, as the Kennet is close by.  I know the road well and exactly how deep any water is, as I drive it every day.  There's a dip in the road where the land has collapsed slightly, and which is usually the first part to flood.  I take test cars down there when it's dry to see how their suspension copes with the sudden dip.

Anyway, I drove down that road recently, came across a 50 yard stretch of water and knew it would kill the BMW's engine.  I was going to walk the dogs so had them in the boot.  I parked up, got the dogs out and started to cut through a hedge to get to a footpath when a middle aged woman in a BMW X5 approached.

I turned to watch.  She obviously thought the X5, being an SUV, would plough through the water with no problem.  I had no chance to stop her as she didn't even slow down.

She hit the water at about 30mph, creating a huge splash, carried on for 20 yards at the same speed, then stopped.

Luckily another car arrived, parked up before the water and the driver got out to help her.  So I went to walk the dogs.

An hour later I arrived back and clambered through the hedge.  The X5 was still in the same place and looked to be very dead.  An X5 has a wading depth of 20 inches but if you catapult your car into floodwater you will force water into the air intake which then gets in to the combustion chamber, which is designed to accommodate air, which can be squished, rather than water which can't.

A Land Rover Discovery 2 has a wading depth of 20 inches too.  But only when driving slowly.  Incidentally the new Range Rover has a filtration system on its air intake which gives it a wading depth of a mighty 35 inches.

Aside from flood water all this rain makes a misery of just using your car every day.

Anything apart from tarmac and pavement has turned to squishy mud so it is almost impossible to get in and out of a car without dragging half a ton of brown ooze into it, and invariably some gets on the door, the sill and just all over the place.  I have to hoover press cars before they go back as I'm embarrassed at all the dirt in the cockpit.

Getting in and out of a car in damp clothes makes them steam up inside.  My Porsche 924S is almost unusable in this weather as it takes 10 minutes just to dry out the interior.  Condensation clings to the windows, roof - anywhere it can.

And then there's the huge puddles.  HGVs steam right through them at 50mph and splash everyone and everything around them, cars can aquaplane, motorbikes are unusable.  At least cyclists get a thorough splashing.

All this rain is just horrible and I'm bored of it.  Please spring, hurry up.  And be a dry one.

By Matt Hubbard