UK weather red alert: Met Office says 'stay indoors' and issues severest storm warning as 108mph winds hit Wales

Warning comes as David Cameron admits it will be a 'depressingly long period of time' before the country can get back to normal

People living on Britain's west coast have been advised to take action and stay indoors after the Met Office issued a red alert for 108mph winds battering Wales.

Forecasters said a storm front was on its way that would bring heavy rain, powerful winds, blizzards and snow across the UK today, but the red severe weather warning - the highest level possible - is a rare occurrence.

It means that there is a high likelihood of power outages, fallen trees and significant damage to property across north Wales and north-west England.

Today has seen:

• Wind gusts of 108mph recorded on land in Aberdaron, north-west Wales

• Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol 'closed due to wind for first time in its 150-year history'

• People in north-west England advised to ‘batten down the hatches’ and stay indoors

• Commuters in Manchester and Lancashire asked to assess situation before driving in peak-strength winds forecast for evening rush-hour

• Heavy rainfall across south expected to match averages for whole of February by end of week

• David Cameron pledges £5,000 grants for homeowners hit by flood damage

• Environment Agency warns situation ‘likely to get worse before it gets better’

As winds of over 100mph are measured in Wales, the storm front makes its way up the coast, and is soon expected to track across northern England.

The Met Office said that while coastal areas are likely to "bear the brunt" of the oncoming storm, the wind will bring widespread disruption to towns and cities inland, including Manchester during the evening rush-hour.

The warning comes as a lorry driver in Bristol was hospitalised after his vehicle blew over. Avon and Somerset Police have closed Spine Road, St Philips Causeway, Arnos Vale, in Bristol, in both directions as a "safety precaution".

Meanwhile, a man was taken to hospital after he was trapped under a fallen tree in Chivenor, Barnstaple, Devon, at around 2pm.

Dubbed "Wild Wednesday", today's storm comes as the worst in a series of low pressure systems that will see some parts of the UK experience a month's rainfall by the end of the week.

Laura Young, a spokesperson for the Met Office, told The Independent: "We’re advising people to batten down the hatches. The best things people can do are to avoid the coast, not travel, tie things down in the garden, and stay indoors.

"Make sure friends and family are safe, and check that vulnerable people have got help and support at the time.

"While the warning runs from 1.30pm this afternoon, we are expecting the peak winds to hit Manchester and Lancashire between 5pm and 9pm.

"That means the storm is hitting built-up areas during rush-hour. In terms of getting home, people need to assess the situation themselves – it depends whether you are a competent driver. Some will feel safer going home earlier, some will want to take public transport."

The Met Office has other amber and yellow warnings in place for the whole of the country, with snow expected to cause disruption in the north and heavy rain to add further misery in southern England.

Forecasters had previously warned to expect gusts of 100mph hitting exposed parts of the Welsh coast, along with heavy rain and large waves. Even away from the coast, they said winds across much of the country could reach 70mph.

As the storm front made its way north, the Clifton Suspension Bridge was closed due to wind for what was believed to be the first time in its 150-year history, BBC Bristol reported.

Bridge master Dave Anderson told the broadcaster he could not remember wind ever closing the 704ft (214m) Grade 1 listed structure before, though it reopened around an hour later.

Ms Young advised that while the "incredibly strong winds" should have passed by around 9pm, gusty weather could still cause extensive damage and disruption for some time afterwards.

The Met Office rarely issues its severest red alerts - today's is the first for wind since January 2012, and is only the 10th for any type of weather since the system was introduced in April 2011.

Meanwhile, floods have been the main cause for concern in much of southern and south-western England in recent weeks, and relief efforts will not be helped by the expected substantial rainfall today.

Between 15 and 40mm (0.6-1.5 ins) of rain are forecast in the next couple of days across many southern and western areas, with as much as 70mm (2.75 ins) expected by Friday in the already sodden West Country, south Wales, western Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Watch: the Met Office's advice on what to do when faced with a red warning for wind

Some 600 troops have now been deployed to assist with flood protection and relief, with around 1,000 on standby, and the Prime Minister David Cameron said "thousands more" were available for tasks like filling and moving sandbags, getting medical assistance to the sick and helping vulnerable people.

Residents in Staines, Surrey were evacuated from their flood-hit homes during the night, Sky News said, while a primary school in Wraysbury, Berkshire, was reportedly turned into a "24/7 control centre" for residents affected by flooding.

Army personnel were on the streets during the night to help police, and worked with police to set up checkpoints to monitor who comes and goes in the area following fears of looting at the homes of flood victims.

Lucy Foster, who has been helping to co-ordinate the operation, told the BBC morale and energy had been low in Wraysbury because the village had been looking after itself for so long.

She said: "Finally we've got the boys and girls that we need - we've got the Army, the police force, the fire service and getting a lot of support from them and a lot of direction from them, which is what was needed."

The Environment Agency said rises in the level of the River Thames are among the biggest threat over coming days.

Read more: Britain's water torture is here to stay until May
Surrey gets first reports of thieves stealing sandbags
Residents in Berkshire say military response is 24 hours too late
Counting the cost of the destruction from the wettest winter in a hundred years
Professor Nigel Arnell: Climate change means we will have to get used to flooding

Paul Leinster, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: "Our hearts and sincere sympathy go out to those who have already experienced flooding.

"We continue to have teams out on the ground 24/7 working to protect lives, homes, businesses, communities and farmland.

"With further rain expected in the coming days, after the wettest January on record in England, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.

"Further flooding is expected along the Thames, which could reach its highest levels in some places since 1947. River levels are very high across south west, central and southern England and further rain has the potential to cause significant flooding," he warned.

Windsor and Maidenhead, Berkshire, as well as parts of Surrey, are now considered at risk, on top of the 1,000 properties reported as flooded over the past week.

Since the beginning of December, a total of 5,800 premises have flooded - although the agency also stressed that 1.3 million have been protected by defences.

EA senior flood adviser Kate Marks warned it was "increasingly likely" that there would also be problems along the River Severn and River Wye.

Sixteen severe flood warnings - danger to life - remained in place in Berkshire, Surrey and Somerset this morning, with a further 120 or so flood warnings and almost 230 flood alerts.

Mr Cameron acknowledged that it would take a "depressingly long period of time" for the country to get back to normal.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payable Assistant - Central Lond

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payab...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

.Net/ C# Developer/ Analyst Programmer - West London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .NET/ C# .Pr...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on