Storm Ciara poses life-threatening danger across the UK, the Met Office warns, as gusts of hurricane-force appear set to pummel parts of the country.
Various yellow weather warnings for wind, rain and snow are currently in place from Saturday until Tuesday, although meteorologists warned these could increase to amber alerts on Sunday.
It is only the third named storm of the season, bringing with it the possibility of power cuts and disruption to rail, road, ferry and air travel.
Very strong winds and flooding could see some damage to property, with flying debris potentially posing a fatal risk, according to the Met Office.
Gusts could reach up to 80mph in coastal areas, particularly in the northwest, bringing a risk of injury or death due to large waves and beach material being thrown onto sea fronts, roads and properties, the national weather service warned.
Further inland, gusts could reach 60mph, even in the typically cosseted capital. Meteorologists warned that infrastructure in southern areas may be less able to cope.
“Seeing such a swathe of strong winds across the UK is fairly unusual, and even gusts of 50 to 60mph in inner London would have quite a big impact,” said Met Office meteorologist John Griffiths.
“So although the strongest winds are probably going to be across northwestern areas and also up through the Channel potentially, seeing gusts of that kind of level [inland] is going to have some impact. That’s why we have this warning.”
Mr Griffiths warned stronger winds on the coast would have a similar impact to lesser gusts in urban and southern areas “because the infrastructure isn’t quite built to cope with those winds”.
Frank Saunders, chief meteorologist at the Met Office, added: “An extremely strong jet stream will steer a succession of low-pressure systems towards the UK over the next week, starting with Storm Ciara this weekend.
“Our confidence in the forecast means we have been able to issue severe weather warnings well in advance, giving people time to prepare for potential impacts of the storm.”
Before the storm arrives, a spate of high pressure will bring largely dry and bright weather across most of the UK on Thursday and Friday, with highs of 10C in Cornwall and 7C in Shetland on Friday.
But by Saturday a yellow warning for wind is issued across Scotland, Northern Ireland and northwest England, which comes into force for the entire UK on Sunday, alongside additional warnings for rain across England.
Scotland and Northern Ireland will still see warnings for wind and snow in place until Tuesday, bringing the chance of air and rail cancellations, stranding of vehicles and power cuts.
There appears little respite for the rest of the country in the wake of Storm Ciara, with the Met Office predicting conditions will remain unsettled and windy, turning colder with wintry showers and the additional hazard of ice heading into the following week.
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