Britain was braced yesterday for its worst storm in a decade, with heavy rain and winds of more than 130kph set to batter the south of the country.
The Met Office national weather center warned of falling trees, damage to buildings and disruption to power supplies and transport when the storm hits overnight.
Between 20mm to 40mm of rain was predicted to fall within six to nine hours starting yesterday evening, likely leading to localized flooding, the Met Office said.
It was set to be followed by widespread gusts of between 100kph and 130kph an hour across southern England and south Wales today, with winds reaching more than 130kph in some areas.
The Met Office has issued an “amber” wind warning for the region, the third highest in a four-level scale.
Similar wind strengths were last seen in Britain in March 2008, but forecaster Helen Chivers said the expected damage was more comparable with a storm seen in October 2002.
“This is what we would term a major winter storm, the sort of storm you would see in January,” she said.
“It’s obviously coming in the autumn and the impact could be high because the leaves are still on the trees and the ground has more water in it”, meaning a higher likelihood of flooding and of trees coming down.”
Comparisons have been made with the “Great Storm” in October 1987, which left 18 people dead in Britain and four in France. It felled 15 million trees and caused damage worth more than ￡1 billion (US$1.6 billion at current exchange rates) as winds blew up to 185kph, 151kph in London.
Veteran weather forecaster Michael Fish said yesterday’s storm was unlikely to be as severe, although his comments will be taken with a pinch of salt in Britain.
Fish was the BBC’s main television weatherman in 1987, but infamously denied that a major storm was on its way just hours before it hit.
This year’s storm has been named St Jude after the patron saint of lost causes, whose feast day is today.
It is likely to affect northern France before heading off towards Denmark, Chivers said.