LONDON– Heavy rain and gusts of wind reaching more than 90mph have brought widespread flooding and travel disruption as Storm Ciara hits the UK.
Trees were toppled, buildings were damaged and some homes had to be evacuated as rivers burst their banks.
Thousands of people are without electricity and sporting events have been cancelled due to the weather.
Airlines have also cancelled hundreds of flights, while several rail firms have urged passengers not to travel.
Ferry passengers also face delays and cancellations, and drivers have been warned to take extra care.
Large parts of the UK are covered by an amber warning for very strong winds, with the Met Office advising that large waves in coastal areas and flying debris could cause injuries.
Sporting events called off because of the adverse weather included Manchester City’s Premier League match against West Ham.
Western Power Distribution says 12,779 of its customers in the East and West Midlands, the South-West and South Wales do not have any electricity.
In the UK as a whole about 118,000 people were without power as of 16:00 GMT. Energy companies said they had reconnected 421,000 customers since the storm hit and work is continuing to restore electricity to the remaining homes.
One journey was made easier by Storm Ciara, however: a British Airways flight made the fastest subsonic New York to London flight as it rode a jet stream accelerated by the storm.
How bad is the storm?
The amber warning for wind in place across much of England and Wales until 21:00 GMT means that damage to buildings, travel disruption and power cuts are expected.
Yellow weather warnings cover the whole of the UK until midnight on Sunday.
Wales has been hit by some of the the strongest winds so far, with a 93mph gust recorded in Aberdaron, north-west Wales, followed by 86mph in Capel Curig in Snowdonia.
Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said the size of the amber warning was very unusual, and showed how widespread the impact of Storm Ciara would be.
“It’s not just coastal parts which are likely to see gusts of 70-80mph, but even inland areas, which don’t usually see those strengths of wind,” he said.
He added that those winds, combined with heavy rain, would cause significant problems around the country. Already more than 100mm of rain has fallen in some parts of northern England and north Wales.
The Environment Agency issued one severe warning for the River Nidd at Pateley Bridge, where it was feared the waters might rise to 5.1m, overtopping flood defences and posing a “danger to life”. The warning was later withdrawn.
How has travel been disrupted?
Heathrow Airport said it had taken a joint decision with the airlines to operate a reduced timetable to minimise the number of flights cancelled at short notice.
British Airways has cancelled flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City, while Virgin Atlantic has posted a number of cancelled flights on its website.
Network Rail has imposed a blanket speed restriction of 50mph across the network on Sunday, warning passengers to only travel by train that day “if absolutely necessary”.
The rail firms which issued “do not travel” warnings for Sunday were CrossCountry, Gatwick Express, Grand Central, Great Northern, Hull Trains, LNER, Northern, Southeastern, Southern, Thameslink, TransPennine Express and the Caledonian Sleeper, which is cancelled on Sunday night.
Flooding and debris on the tracks have caused delays and cancellations to many services.
Some of the routes affected by the weather include:
- Edinburgh Waverley Station – closed to new passengers on cross-border services because of overcrowding
- Avanti West Coast – no services except on routes between London and Manchester or Birmingham
- Grand Central – all services cancelled on Sunday
- Cross Country – a “severely reduced” service is operating
- West Midlands Railway – several routes are closed and customers advised not to travel
London Euston temporarily closed due to overcrowding, but reopened within half an hour.
On the roads, the Humber Bridge in East Yorkshire was closed for only the second time in its history. It has reopened to cars, but not to vans or lorries.
The Dartford Crossing in Kent is closed to traffic.
Ferry services have also been affected, with all services suspended at the Port of Dover because of strong winds.
DFDS has also cancelled all its ferries between Newhaven and Dieppe.
SOURCE: BBC NEWS