Millions of people have been told to stay at home as one of the worst storms in decades, Storm Eunice, hits the UK.
The Met Office has issued a rare red weather warning for parts of south-west England and south Wales, meaning there is a danger to life from flying debris.
Forecasters warn it could bring wind gusts of up to 90mph on Friday, causing significant disruption and power cuts.
Hundreds of schools will be closed, all trains in Wales are suspended and the Army is on stand-by.
BBC Weather said it “could well be one of the worst storms in three decades”.
Eunice is the second storm in a week for the UK after Storm Dudley battered parts of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland, leaving thousands of homes without power.
The Met Office has issued several weather warnings across the UK:
- A red warning for wind – the highest level of alert – along the coastline of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset from 07:00 GMT until 12:00 on Friday with gusts of up to 90mph
- An amber warning for wind covering all of England south of Manchester and Wales from 05:00 until 21:00 with gusts of up to 80mph
- A yellow warning for snow for much of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England from 03:00 until 18:00
- A yellow warning for wind in the Midlands, north-east England, north-west England, parts of Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland from 07:00 and 18:00 with gusts of up to 70mph
Red weather warnings are rare, and mean that roofs could be blown off, power lines brought down and trees uprooted – as well as flying debris which could cause a danger to life.
The last red warning was for Storm Arwen in November last year, but before that one had not been issued since the so-called “Beast from the East” in 2018.
BBC Weather meteorologist Ben Rich said he expects Eunice to “cause damage, huge disruption and coastal flooding” – but he said it was “impossible to know exactly how bad this storm is going to be”.
“Winds of the same strengths will cause different impacts in different regions of the UK – for example, coasts of western Scotland are far better prepared for 80mph winds than inland parts of southern England.”
BBC Wales weatherman Derek Brockway said although Eunice was not a hurricane, winds will reach hurricane force level.
People have been warned to “tie down” objects in their gardens, fasten doors and windows and keep cars locked in garages if possible away from trees and walls.
And the Met Office said people should avoid travelling if they can and stay at home when winds reach the highest speeds.
Hundreds of schools are staying shut on Friday due to the high winds – including in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Bristol.
Almost all Welsh councils have said their schools would close on Friday and some university campuses in Wales are also expected to close.© BBC
There are concerns that Storm Eunice’s strong winds and a possible storm surge could combine with high spring tides to bring coastal flooding to the west, south-west and the south coast of England.
Ten severe flood warnings – meaning there is a danger to life – are in place on the Severn Estuary and the Wye Estuary. Less serious flood warnings and alerts have been issued for other parts of England, Scotland and Wales.
A government source told the BBC they were “well-prepared” with more than 250 high-volume pumps and 6,000 trained staff able to be deployed, adding they were not taking the threat posed by Eunice “lightly”.
In Cornwall and Somerset, residents are being urged to stay at home and only travel on Friday if “absolutely necessary”.
Both councils advised people to stay back from cliffs and seafronts due to the danger of large waves, with Cornwall warning of possible flooding during the high spring tides at about 06:00.
Council and emergency services staff in Gloucestershire and Avon and Somerset were due to knock on doors on Thursday afternoon to ensure people who need to evacuate from possible floods along the Severn Estuary can do so safely.
The government held an emergency Cobra meeting on Thursday to discuss the response to the incoming storm.
Prime Minister Mr Johnson said the Army was “on stand-by” to support those affected.
The storm is also expected to bring widespread travel disruption.
All train services in Wales have been suspended on Friday, while rail companies are urging other customers not to travel, with blanket speed restrictions set to be imposed on the main rail lines across the country.
Great Western Railway said it expected to cut half of its services on Friday and some branch lines in Devon and Cornwall will also close.
West Midlands Railway has also issued a “do not travel” warning for Friday and says there will be a “significantly reduced” service, while London North East Railway urged customers with tickets for Friday to travel on Saturday instead or get a refund.
National Highways – which is in charge of England’s motorways and major A-roads – has said there is a “particularly high risk” that high-sided vehicles, caravans and motorbikes could be blown over and has urged drivers of those vehicles have been urged not to travel on bridges and viaducts.
Several bridges are also set for closure, including the M48 Severn Bridge, the A14 Orwell Bridge in Suffolk from 04:00 and the QEII Bridge in Dartford from 05:00. The M4 Prince of Wales Bridge is expected to close at 06:00.
RAC Breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “People who can work from home tomorrow should definitely do so, and we also urge people not to be tempted to drive to the coast to take photos of the extreme conditions.”
A number of attractions including the London Eye, Legoland and Warwick Castle are also temporarily closing – as well as parks and open spaces including the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and Wakehurst, West Sussex.
In other developments:
- London, Cornwall, Breckland Council near Norfolk and Stoke-On-Trent City Council are opening emergency shelters for people sleeping rough
- Several councils said bin collections would be suspended on Friday
- Legoland in Windsor, the London Eye, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and Wakehurst, and RHS gardens, are among a number of tourist attractions to close
- The Prince of Wales has cancelled a planned visit to Newport and Swansea as a result of the forecast
- A red weather warning has also been issued for Counties Kerry and Cork in the south west of the Republic of Ireland, from 03:00 until 08:00 on Friday. Schools in seven counties are also closing
Many people were just recovering from Storm Dudley on Wednesday as they braced for Eunice.
Dudley left thousands of people in north-east England, Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Lancashire without power. Northern Powergrid said it had restored power to all of its more than 20,000 customers affected by the storm by Thursday evening.