Britain gets 'brief respite' before new storm

 

Britain can look forward to a “brief respite” today from winds that battered the UK, but forecasters expect gusts of up to 75mph tonight.

Two men were killed yesterday as winds of more than 100mph hit the country, bringing travel chaos as millions of people returned to work after the festive season.

Billy Payne, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: “There's going to be a brief respite this morning, but winds will pick up later in the day.

“There will be maximum gusts of 75mph, mainly in exposed parts of western Scotland. But even across northern England and eastern and central parts of Scotland we're looking at gusts of 65mph to 75mph in exposed places.

“It's going to be windy in Wales and much of England, with many places seeing gusts of 50mph.

“The strongest winds will be overnight and into tomorrow morning before they subside in into the afternoon.”

Mr Payne also forecast “heavy and persistent” rain in the north of the country, which will move south overnight.

The Met Office issued “yellow” warnings of rain for much of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, north-west England and Yorkshire and Humber from 9am today.

A man in his 50s was crushed by a falling tree yesterday as he sat in the driver's seat of a parked van in Kent.

Meanwhile a member of crew on board a tanker was killed after the vessel was hit by a large wave off the coast of the south Devon/Cornwall border.

Trees fell on to railway tracks and power lines, lorries toppled over on busy roads and flood warnings were issued after rivers swelled.

High seas and rocky swells buffeted ferries and caused the Port of Dover to close, while gusts of wind damaged the roof of a stand at Epsom Downs racecourse in Surrey.

Kent Police said the man who was hit by a tree was from Tonbridge, and was pronounced dead at the scene on Sandhurst Road, Tunbridge Wells, at 12.25pm.

A spokesman said: “His van is believed to have been stationary at the time of the impact. A male passenger in the vehicle is not believed to have been injured.”

Also in Kent, the Port of Dover was forced to close between 10.30am and 1.20pm because of high seas.

A ferry named the Norman Spirit, run by the LD Lines Network, was rocked by waves around the harbour walls.

The P&O Ferries Dover-Dunkirk services suffered delays of up to 60 minutes, the Larne-Cairnryan crossings were suspended and ferry travel from the mainland to the Isle of Wight was also affected.

Further along the Channel, Falmouth Coastguard was contacted at 11.40am to reports that three crewmen needed to be medically evacuated from an Isle of Man-registered chemical tanker, a Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) spokeswoman said.

A Royal Navy helicopter based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall airlifted one of the men, who was unconscious, to Deriford Hospital in Plymouth where he later died.

The other two casualties were then flown to Treliske Hospital in Truro with suspected fractured bones.

The vessel was 13 nautical miles off the coast of Eddystone Lighthouse, on the Devon/Cornwall border when the incident happened and the wind was measured as storm force 9 at the time, the spokeswoman added.

A top wind speed was recorded yesterday of 106mph at Great Dun Fell in the Cumbrian north Pennines, according to Meteogroup, the weather division of the Press Association.

Meanwhile the Met Office recorded a top wind speed of 102mph in Edinburgh.

The wind caused a horse racing meeting in Ayr to be called off, while Epsom racecourse was evacuated after part of the grandstand flew off.

Commuters faced misery as the bad weather meant some East Coast main line trains between London and Scotland had to start and terminate at Newcastle upon Tyne.

Buses replaced trains on some rail services between London and Harrogate and Hull, rail services across Kent were disrupted and drivers planning to use the Dartford Crossing between Kent and Essex faced delays on the M25 as the QEII bridge was closed for much of the day because of the wind.

The Environment Agency issued 20 flood warnings across the country yesterday, including 13 in the South West, three each in the Midlands and the North East, and one in Wales. It also issued 66 less severe flood alerts.

In Northern Ireland 10,000 properties were left without electricity after fallen trees and severe winds damaged power lines, causing hundreds of faults.

And power companies worked late into last night in Scotland to restore electricity to homes.

Southern Electric said around 4,000 properties were affected by power cuts across its distribution area, which runs from the Isle of Wight up to Oxfordshire.

Most of the problems were being experienced in Berkshire, the company said.

A spokesman said more than 500 engineers were out first thing this morning and they had staff working late into yesterday evening and overnight to fix the problems.

Cross-Channel ferry services were back to normal at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning, with winds in the English Channel gusting to Force 4 to 5, compared to Force 11 yesterday.

Sea conditions were said to be moderate and visibility good.

All services with P&O Ferries to Calais and DFDS Seaways to Dunkirk were “running well and to time”, according to port officials.

The tanker crewman who died was British and worked on the MT Annie PG owned by Pritchard-Gordon Tankers Ltd, the company confirmed.

A spokesman said they would not be naming him but released a statement saying: “Two crew members sustained injuries when struck by a wave whilst on deck, and a third was injured on attempting to assist.

“All three were taken to hospital by helicopter rescue.

“Tragically, despite receiving medical attention on board the vessel and helicopter, one of the men did not survive.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, colleagues and friends and we would like to express our heartfelt condolences at this most difficult of times.

“The other two injured crew members are now in hospital and are both reported to be in a stable condition.”

PA

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