Killer gales: flights cancelled, ports closed, trains restricted and roads blocked

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Two men were killed by falling trees brought down in the savage storms which battered Britain today.

Richard Heard, 54, died on his way to work as the managing director of Birmingham Airport when a tree branch smashed into his car windscreen on the B4373 near Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

A second driver, in his 30s, who was travelling in the other direction, also collided with the branch but was not injured.

West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman Murray MacGregor said: "The crew found a large branch had fallen from a tree on to the road. Part of it had gone into the windscreen of a 4x4 car."

Another man, a passenger in a Ford Fiesta, was killed on the A329 Reading Road in Streatley, West Berkshire, shortly after midday.

A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: "A tree has fallen on to a Ford Fiesta. The front seat passenger was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver is being treated at a local hospital."

The deaths happened as gusts of up to 99mph caused havoc for road and rail travellers and closed ferry ports.

Emergency services reported that several people have been hit on the head by falling debris, whipped up by the gales.

The Met Office issued severe weather warnings as storms swept across much of England and Wales and the first major snowfalls of 2007 left a trail of destruction and travel disruption.

There is a strong chance of flooding in the Midlands and Northern England and drivers in the South West were warned to take "the utmost care" .

Gusts of 99mph were recorded at Needles Old Battery on the Isle of Wight at 7am. MeteoGroup UK forecasters warned that gusts could hit 80mph on high ground and in coastal areas and up to 70mph across the rest of the UK.

British Airways, Heathrow Airport's biggest carrier, cancelled 104 flights on domestic and short-haul routes - about a quarter of its daily short-haul service in and out of Heathrow. Flights that have been able to leave have been delayed by an average of 30 mins.

High winds also forced Cardiff International Airport to cancel or divert some flights.

Two men are being treated for exposure and hypothermia after losing their way in heavy winds, driving rain and fog in the Peak District.

The men, from Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire and Manchester, had walked for several hours before calling police at about 3am from the moor near Leek in Staffordshire. One of them had fallen unconscious by the time rescuers reached them.

Police carried him nearly a mile over rocky ground in the dark to an ambulance, which took him to University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: "The weather can change very quickly and dramatically. On this occasion, the two walkers were fortunate enough to be rescued by police officers."

Four men were hurt - two with head injuries - when winds brought down a wooden hoarding close to London's Euston station. One man received a shoulder injury and the other injured his leg. None of their injuries are life-threatening.

Gale force winds and high tides brought chaos to roads in Dorset.

One man was hit on the head by flying debris when the roof of Bar Vin in Bournemouth collapsed, scattering brick and rubble over the pavement.

He was taken to hospital with a minor head injury.

In Kent, the port of Dover, the M25 Dartford river crossing and the new Sheppey Crossing were all closed, and police warned of possible power cuts across the county.

Kent Police launched Operation Stack, turning sections of the M20 motorway into a lorry park as the high winds caused widespread travel disruption.

It was a nightmare start to the day for commuters as train services were cut and speed restrictions were imposed on many lines.

Railway company GNER was running 75% of its normal East Coast Main Line timetable between London and Edinburgh after Network Rail enforced precautionary speed restrictions on some lines.

Train operator First Great Western warned passengers to expect "significant disruption" to all its long distance services as a 50mph speed limit was put in place.

A 50mph speed limit has also been imposed on services on Central Trains, c2c, Chiltern Railways and Arriva Trains Wales in North Wales.