Britain battered by storms

Fierce storms battered Britain today with heavy rain and winds gusting over 100mph.

Britain battered by storms

Fierce storms battered Britain today with heavy rain and winds gusting over 100mph.

The latest round of unsettled weather added more misery to the January blues as people returned to work after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Around the country trees fell onto railway tracks and power lines, lorries toppled over on busy roads and local authorities issued flood warnings after rivers swelled.

High seas caused the Port of Dover to close, gusts of wind damaged the roof to a stand at Epsom Downs Racecourse and a power surge led to a washing machine catching fire in Wales.

Commuters faced travel chaos as the bad weather meant some East Coast main line trains between London and Scotland had to start and terminate at Newcastle upon Tyne.

Buses replaced trains on some rail services between London and Harrogate and Hull, while drivers planning to use the Dartford Crossing between Kent and Essex were advised of possible delays due to gale-force winds.

Gemma Plumb, a forecaster from Meteogroup, said: “Everywhere has seen strong winds today.

“So far we’ve seen gusts across central and southern parts of Scotland of 85 to 97mph.

“That’s an hourly figure, so there’s a chance there may have been stronger gusts of more than 100mph.

“We are seeing gusts of 65 to 75mph across northern parts of England, and gusts of 60 to 70mph across Wales and the south coast of England.”

Figures published by the Met Office reported wind speeds of 106mph at Great Dun Fell in the north Pennines and 102mph in Edinburgh.

A spokesman for Epsom Downs Racecourse said: “Following severe weather conditions and turbulent winds at Epsom Downs Racecourse this morning, the Duchess Stand roof has been damaged.

“There were no injuries to anyone but as a result and after liaising with the emergency services, the racecourse has been evacuated and all non essential members of staff sent home.

“The emergency services are on site and are monitoring the situation.”

The Port of Dover was forced to close because of high seas, a spokesman for DFDS Seaways said.

A ferry named the Norman Spirit, run by the LD Lines Network, was seen being buffeted by waves around the harbour walls.

Earlier, P&O Ferries reported that its Dover-Dunkirk services were suffering delays of up to 60 minutes, as well as suspending its Larne-Cairnryan crossings.

Ferry travel from the mainland to the Isle of Wight was also affected, with Redjet, some Red Funnel, Hovertravel and some Wightlink services suspended because of rough conditions.

As well as the wind, heavy rain hammered the UK.

MeteoGroup’s Ms Plumb said: “At the moment we’ve got a band of quite heavy and persistent rain that’s heading south-east across England and Wales.”

She said an “intense area” in the middle of a wide band of rain would cause torrential downpours lasting 10 to 15 minutes.

“Parts of Wales and England have seen 5mm (0.2in) to 6mm (0.24in) of rain in an hour.”

In the South West, the Environment Agency has yellow flood alerts active on 21 rivers from Cornwall to Wiltshire.

The Tamar Bridge, which spans the river between Devon and Cornwall, was closed to high-sided vehicles because of strong winds.

First Great Western rail services between Truro and Penzance are being affected by an obstruction blocking “all lines”.

The Met Office issued a red warning for strong winds in the Central Lowlands in Scotland and an amber warning for snow in the north of the country.

Around 20cm (8in) of snow was expected to fall in the Highlands area at heights of 200m (656ft) and above.

n Bangor, North Wales, the weather is thought to have caused a power surge at a house in Lon Y Wern, which led to a washing machine fire.

Nobody was injured, a North Wales Fire Service spokeswoman said.

Elsewhere in North Wales 12 people were evacuated from five homes in Dolgellau, Gwynedd, after a short circuit in an external electrical box.

Emergency crews were called to the properties in Waterloo Street shortly after 5.15am and isolated the power cables before handing over to the utility company.

In the north of England, high winds caused a truck to overturn on to the hard shoulder of the M6 southbound near Tebay, while another lorry was seen lying on its side after being blown over on the A66 in County Durham.

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