What does St Jude have in store for us? The patron saint of desperate causes is being invoked ahead of stormy forecasts

 

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It is billed as the "storm of the century" and would, if doomsday predictions were to be believed, bring the country to a grinding halt.

However, after initial forecasts of high winds and torrential rains due to strike today, later reports of the path and strength of the "St Jude's Day Storm" were contradictory. The most concrete warning weathermen would give uncertain Britons was to "prepare" for winds of up to 80mph.

In a reflection of the pessimism with which many viewed the storm, it was named after St Jude – patron saint of desperate causes – whose feast day is tomorrow. When asked to comment on the storm's name, the Met Office said naming storms was not within "their remit".

While the Met Office's amber warning issued yesterday for the south of England and Wales asked residents to make preparations for the worst, the yellow warning (a grade lower) said Britons in the north should "be aware" of the storm's progress.

Rachel Vince, a forecaster for Meteogroup, said members of the public should employ their common sense before venturing outside. In a blow to fans of news over breakfast, she said it "might be best not to collect the paper" until Monday afternoon.

Ms Vince, in a phrase that could strike fear into the parents of energetic children on half-term holiday, advised an "indoor activities day".

While much of England and Wales was bracing itself, there was much glee further north that, for once, Scotland would boast the best weather in the British Isles, with clear blue skies predicted.

Last night, forecasters were increasingly confident that the storm would hit south-west England today with heavy rain and then strong gusts, before moving northwards with the gusts starting to slow. Up to 4cm of rain could fall in the space of six to nine hours across all areas.

Those travelling were advised to check for cancellations of ferries and flights. Train operators and Network Rail were last night braced for service disruptions today and into tomorrow morning. Many operators warned of timetable revisions as more detailed information over the storm emerged. The Highways Agency advised drivers to take care. As ever with an October storm, the last word must rest with the former BBC weatherman Michael Fish. A little over a quarter of a century after he failed to spot the Great Storm of 1987 coming, he yesterday urged Britons to "batten down the hatches".

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