Gale force winds are expected to cause widespread disruption as Storm Brian batters Britainless than a week after ex-hurricane Ophelia wreaked havoc.

Winds of 60mph have struck the coast and gusts are set to reach speeds of 70mph this afternoon. Forecasters have warned of the potential for power cuts, flooding and delays to transport, as families begin their half-term holidays.

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for winds across southern England which will remain in place until midnight tonight.

People have been advised to stay away from exposed coastal areas and urged not to take so-called "storm selfies" as high tides and a storm surge create dangerous conditions along some coasts. The Environment Agency has issued 44 flood alerts, as well as six flood warnings urging "immediate action".

The Environment Agency has issued a number of flood warnings and alerts for the south Credit: Environment Agency

"Environment Agency teams are on the ground, checking defences and taking precautionary action to close tidal gates and put up temporary barriers.

National flood duty manager for the Environment Agency Ben Lukey

National Rail warned the stormy weather could impact on train services, with fallen trees already causing problems.

A spokesman said: "Fallen trees and other debris may temporarily block railway lines and damage overhead wires. Speed restrictions may be imposed in the worst-affected areas for safety reasons, which may delay your journey."

Storm Brian is the result of a "weather bomb" of low pressure in the Atlantic Ocean. It follows Storm Aileen, the first UK-named storm of the season, which left thousands of homes without power last month.