Millions are being urged to stay at home as the country braces for “dangerous conditions” as Storm Eunice sweeps across the UK.
Two rare red weather warnings for wind have been issued by the Met Office, with forecasters warning of “significant gusts” up to 90mph which could lead to flying debris “resulting in danger to life”, power lines being brought down, and roofs blown off homes.
Where are weather warnings in place?
A red warning for wind is in place across parts of south west England and part of Wales from 7am to 12pm on Friday.
This covers the coastline of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, as well as the south coast of Wales due to the combination of high tides, strong winds and storm surge.
Widespread inland gusts of 70mph to 80mph are forecast, which could rise to 90mph near some coastal parts.
The second rare highest alert – meaning a high impact is very likely – has been issued over the east of England from 10am until 3pm on Friday.
This warning covers Greater London, Kent, Surrey and other parts of the South East, where wind gusts in the most exposed coastal areas could exceed 90mph.
An amber warning for gusts up to 80mph also covers the whole of England from 5am to 9pm on Friday.
The Met Office said “extremely strong winds" are expected to develop in the South West of England early in the morning and will spread north and east, with gusts reaching up to 80mph in some areas.
The Met Office added that the dangerous weather phenomenon known as a sting jet – a small area of highly intense wind inside a storm – could form later on Friday.
Met Office chief meteorologist Paul Gundersen said: “After the impacts from Storm Dudley for many on Wednesday, Storm Eunice will bring damaging gusts in what could be one of the most impactful storms to affect southern and central parts of the UK for a few years.
“The red warning areas indicate a significant danger to life as extremely strong winds provide the potential for damage to structures and flying debris.”
Yellow warnings for wind are also in place until 6pm in the Midlands, north east England, north west England, some of Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland, as well as in south east England, south west England parts of the West Midlands.
A separate yellow warning for snow is in place for much of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England until the same time.
Is travel affected?
The Met Office also took the unusual step of issuing a severe weather alert with National Highways for strong winds covering the whole of the country’s strategic road network from 6am to 6pm.
National Highways said high-sided vehicles and other “vulnerable” vehicles such as caravans and motorbikes could be blown over so should avoid bridges and viaducts.
Drivers who are travelling are being urged to plan their trip and “take extra care”, allowing more time for journeys as disruption is likely.
National Highways head of road safety Jeremy Phillips said: “In high winds, there’s a particular risk to lorries, caravans and motorbikes so we’d advise drivers of these vehicles to slow down.
“Drivers of other vehicles should be aware of sudden gusts of wind which can affect handling and braking, and give high-sided vehicles, caravans, and motorbikes plenty of space.
“In the event of persistent high winds we may need to close bridges to traffic for a period, so please be alert for warnings of closures and follow signed diversion routes.”
The Environment Agency has issued 10 severe flood warnings, meaning there is a danger to life.
Environment Agency flood duty manager Katharine Smith said: “Strong winds could bring coastal flooding to parts of the west, south-west and south coast of England, as well as the tidal River Severn, in the early hours of Friday morning.
“This is due to Storm Eunice resulting in high waves and potential storm surge coinciding with the start of a period of spring tides.”
Those travelling between England and Wales overnight faced difficulties with the closing of the Severn Bridge, while the alternative Prince of Wales bridge was expected to be closed at about 6am.
National Highways announced the Orwell Bridge in Suffolk was closed in both directions with the Dartford Crossing joining it closing at about 5am.
A Network Rail spokesman said disruption is “inevitable” and Welsh services will be suspended for the whole day, while London North East Railway urged customers with tickets for Friday to travel on Saturday instead or get a refund due to expected disruption and damage.
East Midlands Railway said trains to and from London St Pancras “may be withdrawn at short notice”, National Rail said there would be no trains between Nottingham and Skegness until about 8am, and Northern said it was advising customers “NOT TO TRAVEL across the Northern network”.
The delays and cancellations come after Storm Dudley caused travel disruption and more than 14,000 homes were left without power after severe gales of up to 80mph and heavy rain from Storm Dudley swept the UK on Wednesday.
The Cobra emergency committee met on Thursday “to discuss the response to Storm Dudley and Storm Eunice” and to plan for power cuts, the government said, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Army is on standby to help those affected by Storm Eunice.
After Storm Eunice, the unsettled weather is forecast to continue over the weekend with further strong winds, rain and sleet expected through Saturday and Sunday.
The changeable conditions are then expected to continue into next week.
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