THE PUBLIC has been advised to stay indoors today as Storm Ciara is expected to batter Britain with 90mph winds and heavy rain.
The 1,000 mile-wide storm, the strongest to sweep across the country for seven years, will bring travel chaos and the advice is: only travel if absolutely necessary.
Ciara will make driving hazardous, ground flights and cause trains and ferries to be delayed or cancelled. Power cuts are likely as overhead cables come down.
Thirty foot waves are forecast to hit coastal areas of south-west and north-west England today, prompting the Met Office to issue amber weather warnings for most of England and Wales.
The Met Office and Network Rail have both predicted winds of more than 80mph, gusting up to 90mph, battering coastal areas, with up to 70mph winds inland across England and Wales today.
Former BBC and Met Office forecaster John Hammond, who now works for the weather trending website, said: “Batten down the hatches. It’s the wildest weather of winter and it’ll feel the coldest it has all winter.”
Simon Williams, a spokesman for car breakdown service RAC, said: “It’s Black Sunday for travel.
“More road accidents are expected due to debris and vehicles being blown off course.”
Frank Saunders, the Met Office’s chief meteorologist, said: “Storm Ciara will bring damaging winds and heavy rain across the UK and we have issued a range of severe weather warnings giving people time to prepare for potential impacts of the storm.”
A spokesman for MeteoGroup said: “Ciara’s 70mph gusts inland in England and Wales only happen a few times a decade.”
And the bitterly cold Atlantic winds from Canada are forecast to bring fog, snow and sleet flurries tomorrow with temperatures plummeting to minus 5C and blizzards in Scotland.
As a result several rail firms will operate reduced timetables today, with speed restrictions in place.Avanti West Coast, London North Eastern Railway and South Western Railway were among train companies which said passengers with tickets for today would also be able to use them on some services tomorrow. Grand Central has cancelled all its services today on the East Coast Main Line, the busiest rail route in Britain.
Airports are also expected to cancel some flights, with ferries sheltering in ports. Heathrow grounded 80 flights when 70mph gusts were forecast from Hurricane Gonzalo in 2014.
With the bitterly cold winds and rain set to continue, an inch of snow at low levels in Scotland and eight inches on higher ground have been predicted, with blizzards potentially creating snowdrifts blocking roads.
Mr Hammond said: “Strong winds will blow wintry showers right across the country.
Storm Ciara has forced organisers to cancel several public events planned for today, including the London Winter Run 10k, in which 25,000 runners were due to take part.
Organisers took the decision yesterday, saying they were “not able to guarantee the safety of our runners, crew and volunteers”.
London’s eight Royal Parks, including Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, are closed today.
In a statement they said: “In liaison with our tree experts, and health and safety team, we have made this decision to ensure the safety of all park users.”