Britain was hit today by the worst storm since 1996, as the swirling remnants of Hurricane Katia have crossed the Atlantic and reached the land in the morning, sweeping across large swathes of the country.
Weather forecasters warned that gusts of up to 80 mph (c 135 km/h) would batter buildings, uproot trees and cause travel chaos.
They also issued urgent weather alerts for Scotland, Northern Ireland, the North East, North West and parts of the Midlands and Wales as the storm prepares to make its way eastwards.
High speeds winds will be accompanied by heavy rain and the Environment Agency has issued several flood alerts for inland and coastal areas.
Wind speeds were increasing as the hurricane Katia remnants approached, forcing the cancellation of high speed ferries to France from Portsmouth.
According to Brittany Ferries, the company was scrapping its high speed ferries on two crossings scheduled from Portsmouth to Cherbourg today.
Safety regulations state that when waves reach a height of 10 feet (about 3 meters) or more the high speed crossings must not go ahead.
A Brittany Ferries spokesman said it hopes to have all services operating as usual by tomorrow.
Another alert – which warns that flooding is possible – has been issued along the North Sea coast in Yorkshire between Bridlington and Barmston with people being told to be aware of overtopping spray and waves at high tide.
The western coast of Anglesey has also been issued with an alert with waves of up to two metres high expected to lash certain areas, while water levels at Derwent Water, Cumbria, remain high.
According to the Met Office, the South East and South West will largely escape its wrath, but wind speeds are still expected to reach up to 50 mph in places.
Weather forecasters issued a yellow alert, warning people to be on their guard, for more than half of the country and placed several areas on amber alert – the second-highest of four levels.
Other warnings said the storm could disrupt road and rail networks and damage buildings, and trees could be uprooted.
The worst conditions will be in northern and western parts of England and central and southern Scotland. The Environment Agency issued flood alerts for the North East, North West and Wales.
All coastal areas are said to be at greatest risk of flooding with strong winds to gales, large waves and a surge coinciding with high tides.
The storm will continue into tomorrow before petering out on Wednesday. Homeowners were warned to check for loose tiles and bring garden furniture indoors to help prevent flying debris.
Billy Payne, forecaster for MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said:
“The brunt of the the wind will go through central and southern Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England and North Wales.
“Gusts are from 60-70mph in some places, possibly higher, especially in exposed places in parts of western Scotland like the islands and hilly areas.
“It will be quite windy in the south (of England) too with gusts of 40-50mph.
“There will be quite a lot of rain, perhaps heavy outbreaks over the next couple of days.
“The heavy rain will be mostly confined to the north and west of Scotland today and tomorrow. There is a risk of some flooding in north-west Scotland with the high rainfall totals.”
Ferry services and transport routes were already reporting disruption this morning.
Although the hurricane Katia has been downgraded, it still seems to create the worst storms since 1996 when Hurricane Lili brought 90 mph winds to these shores.
Met Office forecaster Tom Morgan said:
“In areas with amber warnings there will be 60-70mph gusts in many places and a chance of 80mph in a few exposed locations.”
The high speeds winds will be accompanied by scattered rain and some hail storms on the east and south coasts.
Despite the harsh conditions, parts of the South East are expected reach 21C (69F) this afternoon, but wind speeds could reach 50 mph.