Bracing for the storms: Are you ready?

Giant waves crashed against the promenade in Dover during massive storms in 2000, which caused millions of pounds of damage across the UK. Credit: Michael Stephens/PA Archive

People in England and Wales have been urged to prepare for the impact of the worst storms in years as gusts of up to 80mph are predicted to sweep across the southern regions from late tonight.

The Met Office has issued an amber alert, advising people to "be prepared" for potentially hazardous conditions, with trees likely to fall and buildings at risk of damage.

Any structural damage could trigger power cuts and transport disruption, while the heavy rains could also cause surface water flooding.

Darron Burness, head of the AA's flood rescue team, said:

If the predicted storm strikes, the timing couldn't really be worse, potentially causing significant travel disruption on Monday morning, which is one of the busiest times on the roads. Strong wind and torrential rain is an unpredictable and hazardous combination, which can be quite overwhelming when you're driving. There's likely to be tree and other debris on the roads as well potential flooding, so it's very important to keep your speed down and drive with great care, particularly on country roads early on Monday morning when it's still dark.

The Highways Agency urged those using the roads tonight and tomorrow to plan their journeys in advance and sent out the following warnings:

  • Drivers, especially those considering a trip with a caravan this weekend, are encouraged to think carefully before setting off.

  • Be aware of sudden gusts of wind, and give high-sided vehicles, caravans, motorbikes and bicycles plenty of space.

  • Be alert for warnings of closures and follow signposted diversion routes.

Coastal areas, in particular, are at risk with the winds likely to be at their strongest. A spokesperson for the Environment Agency warned:

Seafronts, quaysides and jetties should be avoided due to the risk of overtopping by waves. People are advised to sign up to receive free flood warnings from the Environment Agency website, check weather reports on the Met Office website and be prepared to change their travel plans.

Click here for the latest Environment Agency flood warnings and here for the latest Met Office weather warnings.

The Metropolitan Police, anticipating an increase of calls in the next few days, urged people to avoid calling 999 during the storm unless there is a real emergency. Instead, Londoners are urged to dial 101.