Storm Ciara: Floods and travel disruption as UK hit by severe gales

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Media captionStorm Ciara has brought severe gales and flooding in its wake

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.

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Waves battered the coast at Newhaven in East Sussex

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Homes were flooded in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, when the River Calder burst its banks

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Network Rail

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A tree has been holding up Southeastern rail services to Chatham, Kent

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.

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Met Office

More than 250 flood warnings were issued around the UK – meaning that flooding was expected – with more than 200 in England, more than 60 in Scotland, and 17 in 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”.

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A trampoline disrupted Southeastern train services heading to London from Sevenoaks

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Paul Lawlor

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An overturned lorry on the M1, as high winds cause problems on the roads

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Stuart Cowper

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In Perth, three people were hurt after part of a pub roof collapsed, though none were seriously injured

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.

What else has the storm affected?

Dozens of homes in Bury, Lancashire, were evacuated and people taken to a nearby leisure centre after the River Irewell burst its banks. Residents told the BBC the flooding was worse than the Boxing Day floods in 2015.

A surfer in Hastings who lost his board in powerful waves was rescued by police, coastguard teams, a helicopter and a lifeboat. He had been missing at sea for about an hour.

Elsewhere, firefighters in Blackpool had to rescue a motorist whose car got stuck in floodwater. Blackpool Council tweeted that some properties were being evacuated.

Strong winds buckled a construction crane in Stanmore, north London, and tore the sails off a historic windmill in Burgh Le Marsh, Lincolnshire.

The Queen did not attend church in Sandringham, Norfolk, because of “public safety reasons” due to the weather.

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The streets of Appleby-in-Westmoreland, Cumbria, were underwater

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South Shore Fire Station

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Firefighters in Blackpool rescue a stranded driver

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Coastal areas, such as Saltcoats in Ayrshire, bore the brunt of the high winds

Other effects of the storm include:

  • Scotland’s Women’s Six Nations match against England has been postponed
  • Four Women’s Super League matches have been called off, including Liverpool against Everton, where more than 20,000 fans were expected
  • Horse racing at Exeter and Southwell were cancelled
  • The London Winter Run 10k – due to be attended by 25,000 runners – was cancelled
  • London’s eight Royal Parks, which include Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, are closed on Sunday

What’s the forecast?

Strong gusts of wind are expected to continue to hit Northern Ireland and most of Scotland after the storm has passed on Monday.

The Met Office has issued yellow warnings for Monday for wind and snow in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and snow and ice across north-west England.

The yellow warnings for snow and ice remain in place for much of Scotland, northern Ireland and parts of the north of England on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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