Severe Storm Batters Britain With 90mph Winds

Severe Storm Batters Britain With 90mph Winds

Britain is facing transport chaos as hurricane force winds batter southern parts of the country, shutting bridges and railways and cancelling flights.

St Jude's storm started battering the south west from around midnight.

The storm is expected to blast across England and Wales throughout the night and early morning.

Gusts of 93.15mph have already been recorded at the Needles on the Isle of Wight, according to the MeteoGroup.

Torrential rain is also forecast and there are a number of flood warnings in place.

The storm is expected to bring severe disruption to transport, with chaos predicted at southern airports when the worst of the weather hits.

Sky's Home Affairs Correspondent Mark White reports airline workers have been briefed that winds of up to 80 knots (90+ mph) could last until midday at Heathrow.

Engineers have warned that they will be unable to open aircraft cargo hatches or operate walkways used to offload passengers in winds of more than 40-45 knots.

Airlines are believed to be making plans to divert planes to airports in the north of the UK if necessary.

Train companies are warning of widespread cancellations due to possible debris on the tracks.

Southern Railway, South West Trains, Greater Anglia and First Capital Connect are among those predicting travel delays.

Eurostar cross-channel services have been suspended until at least 7am, and around 60 flights have been cancelled at Heathrow airport.

As the storm approaches, the Coastguard said it had "stood down" its search for a 14-year-old boy swept out to sea while swimming at Newhaven, East Sussex.

A lifeboat and helicopter had been searching rough seas for the teenager. Sussex Police has warned people to "stay clear" of seashores during the adverse weather.

The storm has reminded some people of the Great Storm of 1987, when thousands of homes were without power for several days.

Veteran weatherman Michael Fish famously failed to predict its severity before it flattened trees, knocked out power and left 22 people dead in England and France.

This time he has warned people to "batten down the hatches" and to delay their morning journey by two or three hours on Monday morning.

He told Sky News' Murnaghan show: "There is certainly a severe storm on the way - and we certainly do need to worry about it.

"If you draw a line from about Aberystwyth to the Humber - everywhere south of there looks like getting affected by strong winds, to the north of that the problem is going to be heavy rain and localised flooding."

His comments were echoed by senior fire chiefs who have urged people to stay indoors if possible, and to take extra care if venturing out.

Meteorologists have warned the fierce winds and torrential rain could leave a trail of destruction, damaging buildings and bringing down trees and power lines.

Roads may also be hit by flash flooding, bringing rush hour traffic on Monday morning to a halt, and homes could be flooded.

The much-anticipated storm was named St Jude after the patron saint of lost causes, whose feast day is on Monday

Prime Minister David Cameron said he had chaired a call with Government departments and agencies to hear about their plans to "ensure people are protected from tonight's storm".

He was updated on preparations and contingency planning for transport, schools, hospitals, councils and power supplies.

Insurance companies have advised homeowners to take steps to protect themselves and their property.

They suggested having an evacuation plan, placing valuable items upstairs to limit flood damage and ensuring gutters are clear.

The Environment Agency says 20-40mm (0.8-1.6inches) of rain could fall within six to nine hours.

It has teams working to minimise river flood risk, clearing debris from streams and unblocking culverts.

A spokesman added: "Seafronts, quaysides and jetties should be avoided due to the risk of overtopping by waves and wind-blown shingle."

Met Office severe weather alerts are also in place, with an amber warning, meaning "be prepared", for the southern half of England and Wales.

A yellow warning, meaning "be aware", has been issued for the rest of Wales and England.

In London, the Metropolitan Police has urged people to avoid calling 999 during the storm unless there is a real emergency.

Sky News weather presenter Jo Wheeler said Atlantic storms of this type usually develop further west across the ocean, losing strength by the time they reach the UK and Ireland.

:: For the latest on the storm watch a special edition of Sky News Sunrise from 6am on Monday.