Thousands have been left without power as Storm Dudley brought chaos to roads and rail and ferry services across Scotland and northern England, with warnings of even more severe weather to come as Storm Eunice sweeps across the UK on Friday.
The Met Office issued “stay indoors” advice, warning of winds of up to 100mph in places and further disruption to transport, as a clean-up operation was in progress after Storm Dudley.
As Storm Eunice moves in on Friday, an amber warning for wind from 3am until 9pm was issued for much of England and Wales, and for wind and snow in central and southern Scotland from 3am until 6pm.
Thousands of homes were left without power in the north-east of England, Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Lancashire as heavy rain and strong winds, gusting to more than 80mph in places hit on Wednesday, uprooting trees and bringing down power lines.
Northern Powergrid, which maintains electricity networks across northern England, said it had reconnected 10,000 homes within hours, but it could not say when 4,000 more would have power restored. Hundreds more households were left without power across Northern Ireland and Scotland. Gusts of 81mph were recorded in Capel Curig, north Wales, while Emley Moor in West Yorkshire recorded 74mph.
Safety checks were being carried out on railway lines on Thursday morning as Network Rail said it was inspecting more than 1,400 miles of track. Most ScotRail services were withdrawn until around 10am on Thursday.
Network Rail’s route director for Scotland, Liam Sumpter, told the BBC: “It was a really tough evening and night for us last night. Storm Dudley hit us really hard. We have numerous reports of trees on the tracks and also damage to overhead lines and even some damage to signalling systems.”
As Storm Dudley moves away through Thursday, giving brief respite, more severe weather is expected to hit as Storm Eunice, described as “quite a potent storm” by BBC Weather, moves across Scotland and the rest of the UK on Friday. The Met Office said conditions could be even more damaging, with stronger winds, heavy snow in parts and possible blizzards in Scotland.
People across Cornwall have been urged to only travel if absolutely necessary when Storm Eunice hits on Friday.
Cornwall council said the storm was likely to be as powerful as those that affected the south-west in 2014. There was widespread flooding and the rail line in Dawlish, Devon, was badly damaged.
The council said the whole of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – but in particular the north Cornish coast – could expect winds up to 100mph, structural damage, mobile homes being overturned, communications and power outages and fallen trees.
The worst of the winds are set to coincide with high spring tides along the Cornish coastline at around 6am, leading to possible flooding. People are urged to stay back from cliffs and seafronts owing to the danger of large waves.
The areas expected to be worst affected include St Ives harbour, Port Isaac and Polzeath.
Scotland’s deputy first minister, John Swinney, warned that the coming days would be “very challenging”. He said: “High winds may cause issues on roads and bridges, disruption to power supplies and danger from falling trees.
“We would urge everyone to plan their journeys in advance, exercise caution on the roads, and follow the latest travel advice.”
As ferry services in Scotland were disrupted, Robert Morrison, CalMac’s director of operations, said: “This will be the fourth week of extreme and unprecedented weather disruptions.”
Train services were also disrupted by fallen trees and debris caught in overhead wires. Northern, TransPennine Express, West Midlands Railway and the Tyne and Wear Metro were among those reporting delays and cancellations. In Cardiff, a train named after fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore hit a trampoline.
Coastal areas including Blackpool also saw choppy seas and large waves, with authorities warning people not to take risks to get a dramatic selfie.
In England, the Environment Agency had two flood warnings in place on Thursday morning at Keswick Campsite and along the Cumbrian coastline from St Bees Head to Millom, along the coast from North Head to Haverigg, and 42 flood alerts, where flooding is possible.