Britain faced travel chaos on Monday and more than 10,000 homes were without electricity in northwestern France as a massive storm swept in from the Atlantic Ocean.
Britain’s national weather center the Met Office warned of falling trees, damage to buildings and disruption to power supplies and transport as the storm hit England’s southwest coast late Sunday.
Between 20 and 40 millimeters (0.8 to 1.6 inches) of rain were predicted to fall within six to nine hours as the storm tracked eastwards across Britain, with a chance of localised flooding.
It will be followed by widespread gusts of 60 to 70 miles (97 to 113 kilometers) an hour across southern England and south Wales on Monday, with winds reaching more than 80 miles (130 kilometres) 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.
In northwest France more than 10,000 homes were without electricity early Monday after wind gusts reached 133 kilometers (83 miles) in some areas knocking down power lines but no major damage or injury were reported.
London looked set for a chaotic rush-hour 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 unlikely to be before 9:00 am, according to forecasts.
Robin Gisby from line operator Network Rail warned commuters to expect severe disruption.
“If we get through this in the morning, restore the service during the afternoon and are able to start up a good service on Tuesday morning, in the circumstances I’ll be pretty pleased,” he added.
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 7:00 am, meaning delays to early services.
Several ferry operators said they had cancelled some cross-Channel services and Irish Sea crossings.
Meanwhile, the rough conditions led to rescuers standing down the search for a 14-year-old boy who was washed out to sea from a beach in East Sussex on England’s south coast.
Britain last experienced similar wind strengths in March 2008, but forecaster Helen Chivers told Agence France-Presse 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 £1 billion ($1.6 billion or 1.2 billion euros at current exchange rates) as winds blew up to 115 miles (185 kilometres) 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.
“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. AFP