Britain’s worst storm in years, St Jude, has struck with gusto leaving around 220,000 homes without power and 130 flights cancelled at Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world.
British Met Office said winds up to 159 kmph were recorded as hurricane-force winds battered parts of England and Wales last night, forcing UK’s Environment Agency to issue 152 flood alerts across the country.
Rail services across much of southern Britain were cancelled for the morning rush hour and traffic chaos was expected on the roads as a result of felled trees and electricity poles.
One-in-five early morning flights from Heathrow were cancelled with disruption expected at other airports across the UK as well.
“Passengers due to travel on Monday should check the status of their flight with their airline before travelling to the airport,” Heathrow said in a statement.
BBC weather forecaster Mike Silverstone said the wind was moving inland.
“At the moment we’ve got some really strong winds running across parts of southern England and into the south Midlands.
That core is running north-eastwards into East Anglia in the next two to three hours. We will probably continue to see winds of 70 to 80mph before it runs into the North Sea,” he said.
London Metropolitan Police has urged people to not call the emergency relief number unless there is a “genuine” emergency.
In northwest France, 30,000 homes were without electricity and the cross-Channel train service, Eurostar, said it will not run many morning trains. Several ferry operators also cancelled cross-Channel services and Irish Sea crossings.
Britain last experienced similar wind strengths in March 2008.
British Prime Minister David Cameron received an update from officials on contingency planning amid fears of destruction similar to that was caused by the ‘Great Storm’ of October 1987, which left 18 people dead in Britain and four in France and caused damages worth more than £1 billion.
Chief forecaster at the Met Office Martin Young said, “While this is a major storm for the UK, We don’t currently expect winds to be as strong as those seen in the ‘Great Storm’ of 1987 or the ‘Burns Day storm’ of 1990.”
This year’s storm has been named St.Jude after the patron saint of lost causes, whose feast day is on Monday.