Public told to be on high alert as Army stands by for Storm Eunice

Storm Dudley was just an appetiser compared to what Storm Eunice could bring, as Wales and West of England Correspondent Rupert Evelyn reports

The message for some is to stay at home as the Army is placed on standby ahead of the arrival of Storm Eunice on UK shores.

A combination of high tides, strong winds and storm surge comes with the Met Office’s red weather warning – the highest alert, meaning a significant impact is very likely.

There is a risk of “flying debris resulting in danger to life”, the Met Office warns, and “damage to buildings and homes, with roofs blown off and power lines brought down.”

The warning covers the coastline of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset as well as the south coast of Wales and will be in effect from 7am until 12pm on Friday.

Amber warnings, the second highest alert level, for wind are in place across the whole of England from 5am to 9pm on Friday.

Meanwhile, yellow weather warnings, the next level down, for wind and snow are in force for a large part of Scotland – where blizzards are predicted – and the whole of Northern Ireland.

Where will the storm hit hardest?

North Cornwall, north Devon and Sharpness in Gloucestershire are feared to 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.

This is due to a combination of after-effects of Storm Dudley and snow melting.

It is understood that incident rooms are open and pumps and other equipment are on standby at strategic depots should the flooding become severe.

The Environment Agency has issued 11 flood warnings, meaning that flooding is expected, along the River Severn near Gloucestershire, South Wales and Somerset, and 57 flood alerts, meaning that flooding is likely, across England.

It is expected that these numbers will rise over the coming hours.

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Teams are working to erect barriers, clear screens and close flood gates along the tidal River Severn, the South West of England and other affected areas.

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 travelling 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.

Several attractions, including Legoland and the London Eye, and public spaces will be closed on Friday.

All schools in North Wales will be closed, as will many in the south, including in Cardiff and Swansea.

All schools in Somerset will be shut, while schools in Devon and Cornwall are making individual decisions. Bristol City Council is also advising schools to close.

Assistant Chief Constable Wasim Chaudhry, chairman of the Greater Manchester Resilience Forum, said their region could also see trees falling, debris and power cuts.

How badly could travel be affected?

Railways will be impacted by the storm. Credit: PA

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.

East Midlands Railway, Southeastern and Avanti West Coast have also urged people not to travel, with trains being cancelled, delayed and disrupted.

A Network Rail spokesman said disruption is “inevitable” and Welsh services will be suspended for the whole day.

Passengers have been advised that disruption is likely into the weekend as more than 1,000 miles of track in Wales is checked and cleared of debris and fallen trees.

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.

In Cornwall, residents are being urged to take precautions and only travel if absolutely necessary, while people in north Somerset are being encouraged to stay at home.

What can be done about it?

The Cobra emergency committee met on Thursday “to discuss the response to Storm Dudley and Storm Eunice”, according to the government said.

Ministers have been urged to ensure the meeting results in an emergency support plan to deal with power cuts.

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During a visit to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, Boris Johnson 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.”

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 usually operates when temperatures drop to below freezing.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that shelters are being opened on Thursday evening for people who are sleeping rough.

Advice is also available to better prepare yourself for the incoming storm – this includes securing any loose objects around your garden or outside the house and parking vehicles in garages where possible.

How serious is a red warning?

Red warnings are not issued often, with the last one in November 2021 ahead of the arrival of Storm Arwen, which saw very strong winds batter areas on the east coast of Scotland and north-east coast of England.

Several red warnings were issued in late February and early March 2018 during the so-called “Beast from the East”, the storm that brought widespread heavy snow and freezing temperatures to many parts of the UK.

The Shetland Islands were also given a red warning in January 2016 as a result of Storm Gertrude.

Met Office chief meteorologist Frank Saunders said: “The red warning area indicates a significant danger to life as extremely strong winds provide the potential for damage to structures and flying debris.

“Although the most exposed coastal areas in the south and west could see gusts in excess of 90mph, winds will remain notably strong further inland, with gusts of between 70-80mph for most within the amber warning area.”