Hurricane-force winds and rain have rocked Britain’s transport network, leading to the cancellation of trains, flights and ferries and prompting warnings of power cuts and a risk to life from falling debris.
The weather front known as Storm Ciara brought heavy rain and winds of more than 80 miles per hour, causing widespread flooding.
Early incidents included the rescue of a driver whose car had become stuck in deep floodwater in Blackpool, where the emergency services said they had spent a busy night responding to incidents.
The north of England, and the Yorkshire Dales in particular, was hit by widespread flooding. Sirens were sounded early on in the market towns of Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, which has suffered from high waters in the past.
Amanda Owen, a farmer and shepherd in Swaledale, one of the highest and most remote hill farms in England, posted footage that showed a livestock trailer being swept along by what she described as “a flood of biblical proportions”.
The Environment Agency had put 96 flood warnings – requiring immediate action – in place for England and Wales by Sunday morning, along with more than 150 flood alerts that flooding was possible. In Scotland, 59 flood warnings and 15 flood alerts were in place.
Heathrow airport said it had agreed with airlines to “consolidate” the flight schedule in a bid to minimise the number of cancelled flights.
British Airways was offering rebooking options for customers on domestic and European flights flying to and from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City while Virgin Atlantic also posted a list of cancelled flights on its website.
At least 10 rail companies sent out “do not travel” warnings, and nearly 20 others have told passengers to expect delays as strong winds were expected to damage electrical wires and clutter train tracks with broken tree limbs and other debris.
Rail companies issuing warnings against travel included Gatwick Express, Great Northern, LNER, Northern, Southeastern, Southern, Thameslink, Grand Central Hull Trains and TransPennine Express.
On the roads, the Humber Bridge near Hull in northern England restricted traffic due to the high winds, banning high-sided trucks and camper vehicles.
High waves in the Irish Sea forced ferry companies to cancel several trips while conditions also caused the Pride of Hull, a P&O ferry arriving from Rotterdam, to turn back after attempting to dock in Hull. A scheduled arrival of eight o’clock in the morning was pushed back to 3.30pm at the earliest.
The Met Office had put amber warnings in place for much of England and Wales on Sunday morning. It said the heaviest rain would all on high ground. As much as 50-70mm was expected widely, with 100mm in a few locations.
Alex Burkill, a meteorologist at the Met Office, said: “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.”
Events cancelled due to the weather conditions included a 10km run in London that was expected to draw 25,000 runners, as well as horse racing at Exeter and Southwell.
Football cancellations included the meeting between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Women’s Super League.
In Ireland, 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.