The UK is bracing itself for the imminent arrival of Storm Eunice with attractions closing, travel disruption and a major incident declared in some areas – where people are warned to stay indoors.
A rare red weather warning, meanwhile – the highest alert, meaning a high impact is very likely – has been issued by the Met Office due to the combination of strong winds, high tides and storm surge.
There is a risk of “flying debris resulting in danger to life” and “damage to buildings and homes, with roofs blown off and power lines brought down” along the coastline of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset as well as the south coast of Wales from Friday morning (February 18).
The Cobra emergency committee met on Thursday “to discuss the response to Storm Dudley and Storm Eunice”, the Government said.
Ministers have been urged to ensure the meeting results in an emergency support plan to deal with power cuts.
The Energy Networks Association (ENA) said everyone has been reconnected after Storm Dudley caused disruption on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the Army is on standby to help those affected by Storm Eunice.
During a visit to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, he said: “So for those who have already been affected by Storm Dudley, we are offering all the support that we can.
“My sympathies to those who are still without power – we are working with the power companies, the local authorities, to get their juice restored as fast as possible.
“But of course, the Army is on standby.”
Amber warnings, the second highest alert level, for wind are in place across the whole of England from 5am to 9pm on Friday, while yellow weather warnings, the next level down, for wind and snow are in force for large parts of Scotland and the whole of Northern Ireland – where blizzards are predicted.
Severe and significant flooding could also occur along the coastlines of the south and west of England as spring tides are expected on Friday morning.
A number of attractions, including the London Eye, Legoland (Windsor) and Warwick Castle, are temporarily closing.
A National Trust spokesperson said: “Most of the places we look after in the south, south west and east of England, in the Midlands, and in Wales will be closed tomorrow due to the incoming storm, with some sites also shut in the north of England and Northern Ireland.
“We’re urging people to follow local advice and to check our website for more information.”
A number of parks and open spaces including Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, west London, and Wakehurst, West Sussex, will also be closing their doors, according to announcements made on social media.
Some councils across the UK are to help shelter homeless people and halt bin collections.
With the storm approaching, some local authorities have activated their Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) to provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers.
The scheme most commonly operates when temperatures drop to below freezing.
North Cornwall, north Devon and Sharpness in Gloucestershire could be the worst-hit areas due to the tidal impact from the surge and very high spring tides.
Fluvial flooding, which is when the water level in a river, lake or stream rises and overflows, is likely over the weekend in areas including the Pennines, North Yorkshire, Lancashire and the upper reaches of the River Severn due to a combination of after- effects of Storm Dudley and snow melting.
Incident rooms will be open, whilst pumps and other equipment are on standby at strategic depots should flooding become severe.
The Environment Agency has issued 10 severe flood warnings, meaning there is a danger to life.
Avon and Somerset Local Resilience Forum has declared a major incident over the “potential for severe disruption” to the region as a result of the weather.
The forum, whose members include the emergency services, health services, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Environment Agency, said people should avoid traveling on Friday morning “wherever possible”.
A major incident has also been declared in Cornwall, with residents advised not to travel unless absolutely necessary, and to stay away from exposed coastal areas.
Assistant Chief Constable Wasim Chaudhry, chairman of the Greater Manchester Resilience Forum, said: “Storm Eunice will see us affected by winds that are unusually high for an inland area and is likely to cause some problems.
“Most notably we can expect to see falling trees or debris, damage to roofs or structures under construction and very difficult driving or traveling conditions. There is also the risk of power cuts.
“I’m confident that together we are all well prepared, have the people and resources in place that we may need and a strong plan to respond to incidents if we need to.
“We’ve learned from previous bad weather events – including Storm Dudley from earlier this week – and are well placed to handle any arising problems.”
Strong winds from Storm Eunice could cause trees to be blown on to train lines, possibly leading to delays and cancellations, the Rail Delivery Group said.
A Network Rail spokesman said disruption is “inevitable” with Welsh services set to be suspended for the whole day.
The railway operator said there will be blanket speed restrictions of 50mph in the majority of areas, with winds forecast to reach as high as 90mph in some areas.
The decision for a countrywide closure of lines in Wales “has not been made lightly”, said Bill Kelly of Network Rail Wales and Borders.
He added: “The safety of passengers and staff is our top priority.”
London North East Railway has urged customers with tickets for Friday to travel on Thursday or Saturday instead or get a refund due to expected disruption and damage.
Some airports including Gatwick and Stansted are advising customers to check the status of their flights with airlines, as well as allowing plenty of time to travel.
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