The Army is ready to respond to what might be the greatest storm in 32 years.
Over 80 British Airways flights were canceled at London Heathrow and City airports, all railways in Wales were suspended, and vehicles were advised to only make essential journeys while key attractions such as the London Eye, Kew Gardens, and Legoland were all closed.
The Met Office issued the first red warning for the South West at 11 am on Thursday, 20 hours in advance, before issuing the second for the South East at 4 am on Friday.
The South West warning covers coastline of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset as well as South Wales due to the combination of high tides, strong winds and storm surge – while the second is over most of South East England.
Top wind speeds could hit 100mph with the strongest gusts expected in exposed coastal areas, while a lesser amber warning for gusts up to 80mph covers the whole of England until 9 pm tonight having started at 5 am.
The Met Office added that the phenomenon which is known as a sting jet – a small area of highly intense wind inside a storm – could form later today. It would be the first instance of such an event since the Great Storm of 1987.
Forecasters today, Friday, urged Britons to work from home in the worst affected areas – with the centre of the storm expected to be up the Bristol Channel and around the narrowing of the River Severn in Gloucestershire.
MailOnline reported that top wind gusts recorded as of 8 am were 77mph on the Isles of Scilly, 75mph at Capel Curig in North Wales and 71mph at Needles on the Isle of Wight.
Following the red alert issued: Most schools across the worst hit regions in the South West and Wales announced they will shut today;
Major UK attractions including Windsor Castle, London Zoo and Chessington World of Adventures closed;
Windsor Great Park, Richmond, Bushy and Greenwich Parks in London all said they would shut to the public;
Network Rail warned disruption was ‘inevitable’ with airports advising people to check flights with airlines;
People were urged not to take dangerous ‘storm selfies’ with huge waves expected along the south coast;
The Environment Agency issued 10 severe flood warnings, 31 normal flood warnings and 102 flood alerts;
In some areas, refuse collections were cancelled and residents warned to ‘tie down’ bins in the back garden;
Pet owners were warned to take extra precautions to keep their animals safe during the storm.
Home Office minister Damian Hinds told Sky News: “We are strongly encouraging people to take precautions and make sure they stay safe.”
He added: “Over the longer term a lot of learning has been done from Storm Arwen, particularly on dealing with welfare issues, staying in touch with people, staying in touch with customers for the (power) networks.
“But in the immediate term there are troops on high readiness standby, the Environment Agency on the ground, the networks themselves have to be very much active, and they are.
“Weather is unpredictable and it is really important that we all continue… to take those precautions and try to keep everyone safe.”
When asked if people could get ‘cut off’ by the storm, Hinds said that was ‘absolutely a risk’, and the red weather warning indicated a ‘risk to life and limb’.
Families have been warned to expect falling trees, flying debris, severe flooding, roofs blown off and downed power lines.
Forecasters are especially worried because the storm is hitting during the morning rush hour – and in heavily populated areas.
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