Driver killed as tree hits car in Staffordshire

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A motorist was killed on a rural road when his car was struck by a tree uprooted by high winds, police said today.

The 51-year-old man, who has not yet been named, was driving a Mercedes Vaneo on the A458 Bridgnorth Road near Stourton, south Staffordshire, at about 11.30pm yesterday.

A police spokesman said: "In high winds, a tree on the grass verge has been uprooted and fallen across the carriageway, colliding with the vehicle.

"The driver received fatal injuries."

Anyone who witnessed the incident near the junction with Hyde Lane is urged to contact police on 0300 123 4455.

Gale-force winds caused damage and disruption across Scotland, with gusts of up to 90mph blowing down trees and tearing roofs from buildings.

It was a busy night for the emergency services as they received dozens of call-outs to blocked roads and structural damage.

The Western Isles were the worst hit, where winds forced the closure of schools and the cancellation of ferry services.

In Shetland - where gusts reached 93mph at 10pm last night - coastguards had to help secure a 25-metre fishing boat that broke free from its moorings.

At the other end of the country, 50 people were evacuated from their homes after part of the roof blew off a block of flats in Dumfries and Galloway.

Motorists faced disruption with the Skye Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge closed to high-sided vehicles due to the winds.

In town and city centres, fire and rescue crews were called on to secure shop signs.

Forecasters said the north can expect further stormy weather and winds of up to 85mph tonight.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said the fatal accident in Staffordshire, which closed the A458 for around five and a half hours, was attended by an incident support officer, an ambulance and paramedics from its Hazardous Area Response Team.

An ambulance service spokeswoman said: "The driver of the car sustained significant injuries.

"Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent to crews that nothing could be done to save the man and he was confirmed dead at the scene."

In exposed mountain areas, wind speeds broke 115mph. The Met Office said its calculator at the top of the Cairngorms, which shuts down at this speed, went out of action for four hours last night.

In one incident in Glasgow, firefighters had to remove a metal railing which was hanging dangerously from a tenement on Great Western Road.

In North Lanarkshire, a driver was cut free from his overturned car on the M73 near Gartcosh.

It is believed the car may have aquaplaned on the northbound carriageway before landing on its roof.

Central Scotland Police reported around 15 trees down in the force area last night.

Gareth Harvey, a forecaster with Meteogroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "It is staying fairly blustery today, particularly in the next couple of hours, but it is set to ease in the course of the morning.

"There will be a strengthening of winds again across Orkney and the far north Highlands later however, which could see gusts of 80mph-85mph in the early hours of Saturday."

Parts of Scotland saw scattered snow showers last night. These will move north eastwards today, with up to 10cm expected over the hills later.

A North Sea oil installation was shut down this morning after concerns over its stability.

Workers on the floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) unit operated by Maersk reported a loss of heading at 7.20am.

Four of the 10 anchor chains holding it in place failed, the company said.

Its Gryphon A unit about 175 miles north east of Aberdeen was shut down and depressurised and is said to be now in a stable condition.

All 114 personnel were accounted for but the stormy weather has prevented them from being taken off.

A standby vessel is at the scene and Aberdeen Coastguard is monitoring the situation.

Maersk said in a statement: "Reports from offshore indicate that four of the 10 anchor chains have failed. Power which failed initially was restored and the vessel is in a stable condition.

"The installation's standby vessel is in close support and three tugs have been mobilised to assist.

"The offshore installation manager will initiate a precautionary down-manning of non-essential personnel as weather conditions improve."

Drivers of high-sided and other vulnerable vehicles are being urged by the Highways Agency to avoid the M6 between junctions 38 and 40 in Cumbria with wind speeds gusting beyond 65mph.

The A66 has been closed to high-sided vehicles at the request of police.

A block of flats was evacuated in Leeds after its roof became loose because of strong winds which hit Yorkshire.

West Yorkshire Police also warned people living around Lombardy House to stay inside as engineers assessed the damage.

A spokesman said: "Police are warning local residents in the area of Southwood Road and Southwood Drive, Leeds, to stay inside after the roof on a local block of flats became loose due to the strong winds.

"The block, called Lombardy House on Southwood Close, is being evacuated and alternative accommodation is being arranged for local residents.

"Structural engineers are at the scene and are assessing the structure. A cordon has also been put in place and police are advising people in the immediate area to stay inside their homes."

In Sheffield, the top deck of the Tinsley Viaduct - which carries the M1 over the Lower Don Valley, close to the Meadowhall Shopping Centre - was closed after a lorry was blown over as winds topped 70mph.

The incident happened at 8.40am and, even after the motorway was reopened, South Yorkshire Police warned HGVs to avoid the top deck as they expected winds to strengthen.

Lorry drivers were advised to pull off the motorway and use the bottom deck of the structure.

A gust of 71mph was recorded at the viaduct, a spokeswoman said.

In York, the city council closed all parks as a precaution due to high winds.