Storm Ciara is set to batter the UK with heavy rain and winds of more than 80mph.
Weather warnings have been issued across the country for Sunday, with a spell of very strong gusts and the risk of flooding.
Forecasters have warned that flying debris could lead to injuries or danger to life, and there may also be delays and cancellations to air, ferry and train services, damage to buildings and a chance of power cuts.
The Met Office has an amber warning for wind in place for much of England and Wales from 8am until 9pm, while there is an amber warning for rain covering parts of Scotland.
— Met Office (@metoffice) February 8, 2020
Yellow weather warnings cover the whole UK, with the heaviest rain expected over high ground where 50-70mm is expected widely with as much as 100mm in a few locations.
Network Rail and train operators in England issued an alert to passengers: “Only travel by train this Sunday if absolutely necessary.”
Several rail firms announced they will operate reduced timetables amid speed restrictions due to strong gusts.
Network Rail said there will be a 50mph precautionary speed limit for trains, adding that “major travel disruption” is expected.
Strong winds have the potential to damage overhead electric wires and tracks due to debris or trees falling on the tracks.
Disruption could continue into Monday morning as repair work may be hampered by the conditions.
⚠️🚨#StormCiara expected to bring winds of up to 80mph across Britain❗️
The strongest winds are expected on Sunday, but disruption could follow into Monday morning.
We advise passengers to check their journeys @nationalrailenq before setting off!
— Network Rail (@networkrail) February 8, 2020
Storm Ciara was named by the Met Office on Wednesday and is moving eastwards across the UK and Ireland.
Alex Burkill, a meteorologist at the Met Office, said the wet and windy weather is “the prelude, if you will, to what is Storm Ciara”.
He said the most pressing of the Met Office warnings is the amber wind warning.
“That’s where we’re likely to see significant impacts from the wind. We’re taking some damage to property, flying debris, and that could bring the risk of injury to people, as well as just the usual things such as power outages and disruption to travel.
“It is worth bearing in mind that the strong winds on Sunday are going to be very widespread so it’s across the whole of the UK where we’re going to see very strong winds, so the impact will be widespread.”
Mr Burkil said gusts of 70-80mph are expected, “and it could be a little bit stronger than that in some exposed spots”.
The opening ceremony of Galway’s year as European Capital of Culture, due to take place on Saturday evening, was cancelled due to bad weather buffeting Ireland’s west coast.
High winds were already causing travel disruption in Scotland, with several bridges closed to high-sided vehicles and ferry passengers facing disruption.
The London Winter Run 10k event – due to be attended by 25,000 runners – was cancelled after organisers said they were “not able to guarantee the safety of our runners, crew and volunteers”.
Guy Addington, regional water safety lead at the RNLI, said: “This rough weather could make visiting our coasts around the UK and Ireland treacherous and bring very dangerous sea conditions.
“If you see someone else in danger in the water, call 999 and ask for the coastguard. If you have something that floats that they can hold on to, throw it to them.
“Don’t go in the water yourself – too many people drown trying to save others.”