The UK’s second storm in a week has prompted rare danger-to-life warnings, with people being told to stay indoors as winds are expected to reach 90mph.
A rare red weather warning – the highest alert, meaning a high impact is very likely – will come into place from 7am on Friday due to the combination of high tides, strong winds and storm surge because of Storm Eunice, the Met Office said.
The Met Office also took the unusual step of issuing a severe weather alert with National Highways for strong winds covering the whole of the country’s strategic road network from 6am to 6pm.
National Highways said high-sided vehicles and other “vulnerable” vehicles such as caravans and motorbikes could be blown over so should avoid bridges and viaducts.
People have been warned to “tie down” objects in their gardens and be wary of fierce winds which could cause trees to topple over and tiles to fly off buildings.
A number of attractions including the London Eye, Legoland and Warwick Castle are temporarily closing.
A number of bridges are also likely to close, including the Orwell Bridge in Suffolk from 4am and the Dartford Crossing from 5am.
It comes after Storm Dudley caused travel disruption and power cuts to parts of the UK on Wednesday.
Met Office forecaster Annie Shuttleworth told the PA news agency: “The whole of the country will be affected by the extremely strong and damaging winds, which will cause significant disruption.
“People will see significant delays to travel and power cuts, so you should avoid travelling if you can and stay at home when winds reach the highest speeds.
“In areas covered by the red warning, especially coastal regions, there is likely to be overtopping of the sea, flooding to roads and homes, trees being overturned, tiles coming off buildings and power lines being toppled over.
“I’d advise people to tie down objects in their gardens, check for cancelled flights – they may not be able to land – and think about travelling by train or roads due to traffic or delays or because bridges may be closed.
“Make sure you follow the advice of local authorities and councils, fasten doors and windows tonight and tomorrow morning and keep your cars locked in garages or away from trees and walls.”
It comes as the Cobra emergency committee met on Thursday “to discuss the response to Storm Dudley and Storm Eunice” and to plan for power cuts, the Government said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Army is on standby to help those affected by Storm Eunice.
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 a large part of Scotland where blizzards are predicted and the whole of Northern Ireland.
Severe and significant flooding may also take place along the coastlines of the south and west of England as spring tides are expected on Friday morning.
A number of parks and open spaces including the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, west London, and Wakehurst, West Sussex, will also be closing their doors, it was announced 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.
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.
The Environment Agency has issued 10 severe flood warnings, meaning there is a danger to life.
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” and Welsh services will be suspended for the whole day.
The railway operator said there will be blanket speed restrictions of 50mph in most places, with winds forecast to reach 90mph in some areas.
London North East Railway urged customers with tickets for Friday to travel on 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.
RAC Breakdown spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “People who can work from home tomorrow should definitely do so, and we also urge people not to be tempted to drive to the coast to take photos of the extreme conditions.”