Strong winds and lightning strikes batter much of UK

<span>People brave the wind and rain on Waterloo Bridge London on Monday. Bridges and parks across the UK were forced to close due to the conditions.</span><span>Photograph: Alex Lentati/LNP</span>
People brave the wind and rain on Waterloo Bridge London on Monday. Bridges and parks across the UK were forced to close due to the conditions.Photograph: Alex Lentati/LNP

Strong winds and hundreds of lightning strikes have battered much of England, Wales and Northern Ireland with a possible tornado reported in Staffordshire.

The Met Office said it could not verify if the strong gusts in Newcastle-under-Lyme were a tornado but added that the winds forecast on Monday morning “had some potential” to create one.

Pictures shared online appeared to show damaged fences and debris scattered across the street, while police said they attended a scene at St Giles Road in the town just before 7.45am after strong gusts damaged roofs.

The Met Office spokesperson Stephen Dixon said: “Tornadoes do happen in the UK and they’re generally short-lived in nature, but around 30 a year are reported on average. Today there have been some reports of some particularly impactful winds. The fronts that were moving southwards this morning had some potential for some short-lived tornadoes within them, but we would need to assess the impact.”

It was reported that forecasters had recorded at least 450 lightning strikes in England.

Bridges, parks and National Trust sites across the UK were forced to close due to the windy conditions. The M48 Severn Bridge was closed in the early hours of Monday morning in both directions, with road users advised to use the M4 Prince of Wales Bridge as an alternative.

In Yorkshire, the Humber Bridge was forced to close to wind-vulnerable vehicles including motorhomes, cars with roof boxes, motorcycles and high-sided heavy goods vehicles.

Parks were shut across London including sections of Hampstead Heath and West Ham Park and playgrounds in Regent’s Park, Greenwich Park and Hyde Park. Kew Gardens, also in London, announced on social media that it would not be opening on Monday due to “adverse weather conditions”.

Popular tourist sites including parts of Dover Castle and Ainsdale beach in Southport were also forced to close.

The Met Office issued a yellow warning for wind at 6.25am on Monday that covers the whole of Northern Ireland, Wales and England as far north as Cumbria until 10pm. Gusts of up to 45mph were expected inland and in exposed coastal areas there could be winds of up to 55mph with heavy rain showers.

On Monday temperatures were expected to be below average for this time of year, peaking at between 11C (51.8F) and 12C in southern England and between 8C and 11C in the north, with rain showers expected up until Friday, the Met Office said.

It has forecast some high pressure over the weekend that could lead to drier weather.

Dixon said: “By the time we get to the weekend, there’s a signal for higher pressure to build in from the south-west which would settle things down in terms of rainfall totals.

“We’ve obviously seen a very wet few weeks and months indeed for the UK, but by the time we get to Saturday and into Sunday we’re looking at high pressure building in from the west, which would see a reduction in those rainfall totals and some much needed dry weather for some areas.”

The forecaster has said windy conditions are likely to cause delays to road, rail, air and ferry transport as well as a possible short-term power cuts.