The Met Office has issued a rare “red” weather alert, warning of gusts in excess of 80mph in parts of northern England and Scotland as Storm Arwen sweeps in this weekend, bringing high winds and disruption to much of the UK.
A man in Northern Ireland was killed after his car was hit by a falling tree in Antrim on Friday.
The red alert, warning of a “danger to life” and the highest the Met Office issues, covers an area stretching along the east coast from Newcastle upon Tyne to beyond Aberdeen from 3pm on Friday to 2am on Saturday.
Flying debris is expected to cause chaos, especially on transport links, with the potential for damage to buildings and homes, roofs blown off, and power lines brought down.
The warning, the first at red level for more than 18 months, comes as Storm Arwen begins moving in from the North Sea, travelling south before it is expected to ease on Sunday.
The Met Office said there could be closures to roads, bridges, and railway lines with delays and cancellations to bus, train, ferry services and flights and warned of “large waves and beach material being thrown on to coastal roads, sea fronts and homes”.
Yellow wind warnings were also in place across most western parts of the UK on Friday, extending to the rest of the country on Saturday.
Supt Simon Bradshaw from Police Scotland said motorists in the red alert area “should not travel under any circumstances” and added that those in amber and yellow warning zones should “not journey out unless for essential purposes, and if you are doing so, to be mindful of the challenging conditions you will face”.
Train operator London North Eastern Railway also issued a “do not travel” alert to customers as its services will be “significantly disrupted due to severe weather” until Sunday.
The firm runs trains on the east coast mainline between London and Scotland, calling at stations including Leeds, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Network Rail will close the east coast route north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, from 5pm on Friday.
Gusts were expected to reach 55-65mph in parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, south-west England and north-east England, with the strongest in coastal areas.
Met Office meteorologist Daniel Rudman said: “Storm Arwen is associated with a deep low-pressure system that will impact the north-east most significantly from Friday, but will also bring wider impacts to the UK, with high winds, rain and snow probable, especially over higher ground.
“The most significant impacts will be the high winds that much of the UK will see on Friday and into Saturday, with gusts possible in excess of 80mph in exposed coastal areas, especially in the north-east.”
Ross MacLeod, Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s water safety manager, said: “This rough weather could make visiting our coasts around the UK and Ireland treacherous and bring very dangerous sea conditions.”
Temperatures are also expected to plunge, prompting a cold weather alert, and people have been urged to check on vulnerable relatives and neighbours. Snow is expected on high ground in Scotland and northern England, and yellow snow warnings have been issued for late on Friday and into Saturday.
Will Lang, head of civil contingencies at the Met Office, said: “The UK will see temperatures drop to below average in the coming days, as cold air is drawn in from the north. Areas in the north will see temperatures below freezing overnight, with daytime maximum temperatures only getting into the low single figures.
“It’s important to note that strong wind speeds, in excess of 65mph in exposed locations, will exacerbate the cold temperatures we’ll be seeing over the weekend.”