Storm Eunice warning upgraded to red as Wales braces for worst storm in 30 years
Video report by ITV Wales weather presenter Ruth Dodsworth
A rare 'red' weather warning has been issued for parts of south Wales as Storm Eunice threatens to be the worst storm to hit the country in 30 years.
The Met Office warning means the storm could pose a "danger to life" caused by flying debris, and damage to buildings and homes is to be expected.
The First Minister of Wales confirmed he had attended a COBRA meeting to discuss preparations for the storm, and urged people to "think carefully" and "only travel tomorrow if absolutely necessary."
The red warning is in force across south Wales between 07:00 and 12:00 on Friday (February 18).
Which areas are covered by the red warning?
Neath Port Talbot
Rhondda Cynon Taf
Vale of Glamorgan
An 'amber' warning for wind, which covers all of Wales, is also in place on Friday from 03:00 until 21:00.
All rail services in Wales will be suspended on Friday (February 18) and schools are being closed across the country.
Network Rail warned that disruption is also likely to continue into the weekend "so that more than 1000 miles of track can be checked and cleared of debris and fallen trees."
All non-urgent medical care has been halted in the Swansea Bay Univeristy Hospital area.
Natural Resources Wales have issued almost 100 flood warnings - which means flooding is expected and "immediate action" is required.
Some health boards have announced vaccine centres will be closed to ensure public safety.
Traffic Wales has told motorists to expect dangerous driving conditions and people are advised to only travel if necessary.
Meanwhile the Prince of Wales has cancelled a planned visit to Newport and Swansea as a result of the forecast.
A Clarence House spokesperson said: “Following official guidance, the Prince of Wales’s visit to Newport and Swansea on Friday 18 February will not go ahead due to the dangers posed by Storm Eunice.
“In the interests of public safety, these engagements will be postponed with a view to rescheduling at a future date.”
It follows the second named storm of the week, Storm Dudley which saw gusts of up to 81mph in Capel Curig on Wednesday and left thousands of homes without power.
Storm Eunice is predicted to bring with it wind speeds of up to 70mph inland and 100mph around the Welsh coast.
Red Weather Warning: What to expect?
Flying debris resulting in danger to life
Damage to buildings and homes, with roofs blown off and power lines brought down
Uprooted trees are likely
Roads, bridges and railway lines closed, with delays and cancellations to bus, train, ferry services and flights
Power cuts affecting other services, such as mobile phone coverage
Large waves and beach material being thrown onto coastal roads, sea fronts and homes, including flooding of some coastal properties
Natural Resources Wales is warning people that high tides could lead to flooding in coastal areas on Friday and are urging extreme caution.
Ross Akers, Duty Tactical Manager for NRW, said: “The forecasted high winds could cause a storm surge and large waves which could lead to the overtopping of flood defences along the coast.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely, but we are concerned that if the forecast does materialise, then we are likely to see significant flooding impacts in many places along our coastal areas."
He continued: “Wind speeds could also result in damage in many areas. We are urging caution, and for everyone to keep a close eye on the weather forecasts and check the NRW website for the latest flood warnings.
“If you live near to, or are visiting a coastal area, please take extra care and keep a safe distance from coastal paths and promenades as large waves can sweep you off your feet or you can be hit by debris.”
Lifesaving charity, the RNLI, is encouraging people to stay away from the shoreline, especially along exposed cliffs, seafronts and piers.
RNLI Water Safety Lead Chris Cousens said: "The expected storms could make our seas treacherous, increasing the risk for those visiting the coast around the UK and Ireland.
"In particular, we ask people to stay well back from stormy, wintery seas and cliff edges, check tide times before you go, take a phone with you, and call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard if you or someone else is in trouble."
Fire and rescue services in Wales are advising people to avoid "all but essential travel" and not to try walking or driving through flood water.
Will there be power cuts?
Energy networks have said they are preparing for power outages caused by the storm.
The Energy Networks Association said almost all properties affected by power outages from Storm Dudley have now been reconnected.
Ross Easton, from the Association, which represents the UK's energy network operators, said: "With either a yellow, amber or red 'risk to life' warning now in force across a large part of the UK tomorrow, we are reiterating our safety advice.
"If you come across fallen power lines or damage to the electricity network, stay well clear and call 105 for free to report it. In Northern Ireland the number is 03457 643 643.
"If there is an immediate risk to life or someone is in danger, dial 999.
"The energy networks are moving teams and equipment to strategic locations, ready to respond if needed. We are contacting customers in vulnerable situations to ensure they're aware of the warnings in place and informed about what to do."
What if you have train tickets booked for Friday?
Transport for Wales is allowing passengers with tickets for Friday to travel on Thursday or over the weekend, if services have resumed by then.
Great Western Railway is also allowing passengers to travel on alternative days with tickets valid today through to and including Monday 21 February.
Bill Kelly, Network Rail Wales & Borders route director, said: “The decision to temporarily close the railway in Wales has not been made lightly but the safety of passengers and staff is our top priority.
“Storm Eunice is expected to bring extreme high winds of up to 100mph and in places it is very likely trees and debris will be blown onto train lines.
“We are sorry for the disruption caused by closing the railway and we will continue to work hard, along with our train operator colleagues, to get train services back up and running as soon as it is safe to do so.
“Passengers who are planning to travel over the weekend are strongly advised to check before they travel as the unpredictable nature of storms such as Storm Eunice means the impact on services can change quickly.”
Will schools be open?
Some local authorities have already decided to close schools on Friday with the worst of the bad weather expected during the morning drop off time.
Rhondda Cynon Taf, Powys, Cardiff and Ceredigion councils have announced schools will be closed on Friday and the Vale of Glamorgan council has said some schools will shut.
Local authorities will update parents throughout the day through schools and on their website.