Millions of people have been urged to stay at home on Friday as Storm Eunice, one of the worst storms in a generation, hits the UK.
The Met Office issued rare red weather warnings covering much of southern and eastern England and south Wales, saying there is a danger to life from flying debris.
It said the storm could cause “significant disruption and dangerous conditions due to extremely strong winds on Friday.”
Met Office chief meteorologist Paul Gundersen said Eunice will bring “damaging gusts” and “could be one of the most impactful storms to affect southern and central parts of the UK for a few years.”
Gusts of up to 92 mph were recorded at the Needles on the Isle of Wight on Friday morning.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter: “The @metoffice has issued a Red Weather Warning for much of the UK. We should all follow the advice and take precautions to keep safe. I thank responders for all their efforts.”
The @metoffice has issued a Red Weather Warning for much of the UK.
We should all follow the advice and take precautions to keep safe.
I thank responders for all their efforts. https://t.co/peqjkshdNf
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 18, 2022
The government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee will meet on Friday afternoon to discuss the response to the storm, according to a government spokesman said,
Home Office minister Damian Hinds said the government is “strongly encouraging people to take precautions and make sure they stay safe.”
The army is on “high readiness stand-by” to help with the response, he told Sky News.
The Met Office also took the unusual step of issuing a severe weather alert with National Highways for strong winds covering the whole of the country’s strategic road network from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
National Highways said there is a “particularly high risk” that high-sided vehicles and other “vulnerable” vehicles such as caravans and motorbikes could be blown over.
Those using such vehicles were told not to travel on bridges, viaducts, and exposed highways throughout England.
At Heathrow Airport, at least 65 flights were cancelled on Friday and a further 114 were delayed by more than 15 minutes. At Gatwick Airport, there were 15 cancellations and 67 delayed flights.
P&O Ferries has suspended all sailings between Dover and the French port of Calais.
The Environment Agency urged weather watchers to resist the temptation to travel to the coast for photographs of Eunice.
Roy Stokes, the agency’s spokesperson for the Midlands, said it would be “probably the most stupid thing you can do.”
“I know people like to go and get photos and pictures, it’s quite a dramatic scene but they’re far safer to watch it on the screen,” he told BBC Breakfast.
In Cornwall, the Coastguard and police have warned people to stay away from the coast, it was reported that young people had been climbing onto seawalls and people had been swimming in the sea.
PA Media contributed to this report.