Major disruption as ‘exceptional’ Storm Ciara hits UK

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Storm Ciara is sweeping across the UK, with heavy rain and severe gales disrupting flights, trains and ferries.

Met Office weather warnings are in force, with gusts of more than 80 miles per hour battering parts of the country as forecasters warned flying debris could lead to injuries or endanger lives.

Met Office meteorologist Helen Roberts said “quite exceptional” gusts of between 60 and 70mph would be seen in inland areas, with the worst of the weather likely to hit before 6pm, although warnings are in place until 9pm.

“As well as the strength of the wind there is the rain to come today,” she said.

“So far, we have seen some impact from the rain, which has been heavy and persistent across Northern Ireland and northern England in the last 24 hours.

“It is likely we will see further impact from the wind such as falling debris, roof tiles coming off, branches and trees down, with disruption to travel as well.”

Dozens of domestic and international flights have been cancelled, while rail companies in England, Scotland and Wales have urged passengers not to travel and say they will operate reduced timetables and speed restrictions on Sunday.

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Drivers were warned they face treacherous conditions with reports of fallen trees and other debris blocking roads, while firefighters in Blackpool had to rescue a motorist whose car got stuck in deep floodwater.

A trampoline blown onto train tracks in Chelsfield, south London, disrupted rail services from the South East into the capital.

And a North Wales Twitter user shared footage of rough seas flooding roads and bringing water to his front door on Tremadoc Bay in Criccieth, Gwynedd.

“This is quite an exceptional storm and I haven’t seen wind this strong for quite a few years,” 58-year-old company director Gethin Jones told the PA news agency.

 

Gusts of 86 miles per hour were recorded in Capel Curig, in North Wales, at midnight, the Isle of White saw 81mph winds, while Cumbria saw 151.8mm of rain in 24 hours.

The Environment Agency has issued 123 flood warnings, meaning flooding is expected and immediate action is required, and 159 alerts, indicating flooding is possible.

Flooding in Hawes, North Yorkshire
Flooding in Hawes, North Yorkshire (Thomas Beresford/Twitter/P{A)

Strong winds have the potential to damage overhead electrical wires and tracks due to debris or falling trees and the disruption could continue into Monday morning as repair work may be hampered by the conditions.

Officials also warned of possible damage to buildings and the chance of power cuts.

Humberside Police said the Humber Bridge was closed to high-sided vehicles.

The opening ceremony of Galway’s year as European Capital of Culture, due to take place on Saturday evening, was cancelled due to bad weather buffeting Ireland’s west coast.

Heathrow Airport said it had agreed with its airline partners to “consolidate” Sunday’s flight schedule in a bid to minimise the number of cancelled flights.

British Airways said in a statement: “Like all airlines operating into and out of the UK tomorrow, we are expecting to be impacted by the adverse weather conditions across parts of the UK on Sunday.”

The airline said it was offering rebooking options for customers on domestic and European flights flying to and from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City on Sunday.

Virgin Atlantic has posted a list of cancelled flights on its website. It said it was “contacting affected customers and rearranging their travel arrangements”.

Ferries have also been disrupted, as P&O said all services at the Port of Dover were suspended due to strong winds and Mersey Ferries cancelled all services until further notice.

The train firms which have issued “do not travel” warnings are Gatwick Express, Grand Central, Great Northern, Hull Trains, LNER, Northern, Southeastern, Southern, Thameslink and TransPennine Express.

Avanti West Coast has taken the decision not to run trains north of Preston today until further notice due to the impact of Storm Ciara.

The London Winter Run 10k event – due to be attended by 25,000 runners – was cancelled after organisers said they were “not able to guarantee the safety of our runners, crew and volunteers”.

Storm Ciara was named by the Met Office on Wednesday and is moving eastwards across the UK and Ireland.

The Met Office has an amber warning for wind in place for much of England and Wales from 8am until 9pm, while an amber warning for rain applies to parts of Scotland.

Yellow weather warnings cover the whole UK with the heaviest rain expected over high ground.

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