Millions of Britons were urged to stay at home today amid major travel chaos after the Met Office issued a rare ‘red warning’ for 100mph winds over southern England including London as Storm Eunice swept into Britain.
The warnings run from 7am until 12pm in the South West and 10am until 3pm in the South East with forecasters concerned over ‘flying debris resulting in danger to life’ as well as ‘roofs blown off and power lines brought down’.
Hundreds of schools were closed, all trains in Wales were suspended and rail passengers across England were told not to travel amid mass cancellations as the Army was on standby for what could be the worst storm in 32 years. Shocking footage filmed in Bude, Cornwall, showed the storm taking down a huge tree which crashed onto a park.
British Airways cancelled more than 80 flights at London Heathrow and City airports, motorists were warned only to make essential journeys and major attractions closed including the London Eye, Kew Gardens and Legoland.
Some 14,000 homes in Cornwall were left without power, while parks across London were closed and taped off – and police were seen ordering a dog walker to leave Primrose Hill in North London immediately. The man involved, film producer David Broder, 57, told MailOnline: ‘I saw two police vehicles and then was approached by a police officer who came running towards me shouting, ‘Get out the park now’, which I thought, ‘he’s a bit over excited’.
‘The police officer then informed me that the park is now closed and I have to leave. I thought I’ll get into the park, obviously 10am is the time (the red warning begins), my dog walker’s cancelled today, so I thought I’ll just do a quick half an hour as I do most days anyway.’ When asked whether he saw anyone else being told to leave, he said: ‘Yes. This was ridiculous, as I just wanted to take my dog out for half an hour or so before the storm sets in.’
All outpatient appointments were cancelled at Royal Cornwall Hospital today ‘to keep people safe’. In addition, Universities, National Trust sites and other tourist venues including Kensington Palace also shut today, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: ‘Please stay at home, do not take risks and do not travel unless absolutely essential.’
Transport for London urged people to avoid non-essential travel, while the Environment Agency told Britons to avoid travelling to the coast for dramatic photographs – saying it was ‘probably the most stupid thing you can do’.
The Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee will meet this afternoon to discuss the response to the storm for the second time in two days, with the meeting again chaired by Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis.
Network Rail urged customers to avoid travelling, with many services either cancelled or delayed, and trains running at 50mph due to the increased risk of having to brake for debris on the track. Major roads including the A66 cross-Pennine route and the M8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow were partially closed due to high winds.
The Met Office issued the first red warning for the South West at 11am yesterday, 20 hours in advance, before issuing the second for the South East at 4am today – just six hours before the ‘extremely strong winds’ begin.
The South West warning covers coastline of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset as well as South Wales due to the combination of high tides, strong winds and storm surge – while the second is over most of South East England.
One dramatic video showed pilots battling to land in extreme crosswinds at Birmingham Airport this morning, with a Vueling plane from Paris violently rocking from side to side as it approached the runway in 60mph winds.
Top wind speeds could hit 100mph with the strongest gusts expected in exposed coastal areas, while a lesser amber warning for gusts up to 80mph covers the whole of England until 9pm tonight having started at 5am.
The Met Office added that the phenomenon known as a sting jet – a small area of highly intense wind inside a storm – could form later today. It would be the first instance of such an event since the Great Storm of 1987, when wind speeds peaked at 115mph at Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex, while also hitting 94mph in Central London.
Forecasters today urged Britons to work from home in the worst affected areas – with the centre of the storm expected to be up the Bristol Channel and around the narrowing of the River Severn in Gloucestershire.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted today: ‘The Met Office has issued a red weather warning for much of the UK. We should all follow the advice and take precautions to keep safe. I thank responders for all their efforts.’
The top wind gusts by 9.30am today were 92mph on the Isle of Wight, 87mph at Swansea, 79mph on the Isles of Scilly and 75mph at Capel Curig in North Wales. Meanwhile in a string of weather-related developments:
Source: The Daily Mail