London (AFP) – Britain was braced on Sunday for its worst storm in a decade, with heavy rain and winds of more than 80 miles (130 kilometres) an hour set to batter the south of the country.
The Met Office national weather centre warned of falling trees, damage to buildings and disruption to power supplies and transport when the storm hits overnight to Monday.
Between 20 and 40 millimetres (0.8 to 1.6 inches) of rain is predicted to fall within six to nine hours starting on Sunday evening, with a chance of localised flooding.
It will be followed by widespread gusts of 60 to 70 miles an hour across southern England and south Wales on Monday, with winds reaching more than 80 miles an hour in some areas, forecasters say.
The Met Office issued an “amber” wind warning for the region, the third highest in a four-level scale, and urged people to delay their Monday morning journeys to work to avoid the worst of the bad weather.
London’s rush-hour looked set to be chaotic after train companies First Capital Connect, C2C, Greater Anglia, Southern and Gatwick Express services all said they would not run services on Monday until it was safe to do so. That is likely to be after 9.00am (0900 GMT), according to forecasts.
Major airports also warned of disruption to flights with London-hub Heathrow expecting approximately 30 cancellations.
Cross-channel train service Eurostar said it would not be running trains on Monday until 7.00am, meaning delays to early services.
Several ferry operators said they had cancelled some cross-Channel services and Irish Sea crossings.
Britain last experienced similar wind strengths in March 2008, but forecaster Helen Chivers told AFP the expected damage was more comparable with a storm seen in October 2002.
Prime Minister David Cameron received an update from officials on contingency planning in a conference call on Sunday, amid fears of similar damage wrought by the “Great Storm” of October 1987.
That left 18 people dead in Britain and four in France, felled 15 million trees and caused damages worth more than Â£1 billion ($1.6 billion or 1.2 billion euros at current exchange rates) as winds blew up to 115 miles an hour.
Martin Young, chief forecaster at the Met Office, said: “While this is a major storm for the UK, we don’t currently expect winds to be as strong as those seen in the ‘Great Storm’ of 1987 or the ‘Burns Day storm’ of 1990.
“This weather system is typical of what we expect to see in winter but as it’s coming in during autumn — when trees are in leaf — and while the ground is fairly saturated, it does pose some risks.
“We could see some uprooted trees or other damage from the winds and there’s a chance of some surface water flooding from the rainfall — all of which could lead to some disruption.”
Veteran weather forecaster Michael Fish also said Sunday’s storm was unlikely to be as severe as 26 years ago, although his comments will be taken with a pinch of salt in Britain.
Fish was the BBC’s main television weatherman in 1987 but famously denied that a major storm was on its way just hours before it hit.
This year’s storm has been named St Jude after the patron saint of lost causes, whose feast day is on Monday.
It is likely to affect northern France before heading off towards Denmark, forecasters said.
- Natural Phenomena
- Met Office