London – Millions of people have been told to stay at home as one of the worst storms in decades, Storm Eunice, hits the United Kingdom.
High winds have seen flights cancelled, hundreds of schools shut, and a number of major bridges around the country closed.
The Met Office has issued red weather warnings – meaning there is a danger to life – covering much of southern and eastern England and south Wales.
One gust of 122mph on the Isle of Wight set an interim record in England.
The gust was measured at The Needles, an exposed point at the western extremity of the island.
Power cuts have left more than 50 000 properties in south-west England and south Wales without power.
BBC Weather said Eunice “could well be one of the worst storms in three decades”.
It 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.
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.
This is the first red warning to be issued for either London or south-east England since the system was introduced in 2008.
High winds have led to:
Hundreds of school closures in much of Wales and affected areas of England, including in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset and Bristol
The closure of the two Severn bridges between England and Wales, the Britannia Bridge between Anglesey and mainland Wales, the A14 Orwell Bridge in Suffolk, and the QEII Bridge in Dartford
The Humber Bridge, near Hull, has also had to close for only the fourth time in 40 years
More than 200 delays or cancellations of flights into Heathrow and Gatwick
Train cancellations and speed limits imposed on much of the network
Fallen trees blocking multiple train lines and roads
The UK’s 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.
The Met Office said people should avoid travelling if they could and stay at home when winds reach the highest speeds.
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.
River flooding in the Pennines, North Yorkshire and Lancashire is expected during the weekend. The water level in rivers, lakes and streams is likely to rise and overflow due to a combination of after-effects of Storm Dudley and snow melting.
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”. (BBC)