Man killed as 100mph winds batter Britain
Published 03/01/2012 | 14:58
A 50-year-old man was killed when a tree fell on his van as fierce storms battered Britain bringing heavy rain and winds gusting at more than 100mph.
The van driver was crushed by a falling branch in high winds in Tunbridge Wells, Kent Police said.
Around the country trees fell onto railway tracks and power lines, lorries toppled over on busy roads and local authorities issued flood warnings after rivers swelled.
High seas caused the Port of Dover to close, gusts of wind damaged the roof to a stand at Epsom Downs Racecourse and a power surge led to a washing machine catching fire in Wales.
Commuters faced travel chaos as the bad weather meant some East Coast main line trains between London and Scotland had to start and terminate at Newcastle upon Tyne.
Buses replaced trains on some rail services between London and Harrogate and Hull, while drivers planning to use the Dartford Crossing between Kent and Essex were advised of possible delays due to gale-force winds.
Gemma Plumb, a forecaster from Meteogroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "Everywhere has seen strong winds today.
"So far we've seen gusts across central and southern parts of Scotland of 85 to 97mph.
"That's an hourly figure, so there's a chance there may have been stronger gusts of more than 100mph.
"We are seeing gusts of 65 to 75mph across northern parts of England, and gusts of 60 to 70mph across Wales and the south coast of England."
Figures published by the Met Office reported wind speeds of 106mph at Great Dun Fell in the north Pennines and 102mph in Edinburgh.
The Met Office issued severe weather warnings across many regions.
Forecasters have told those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be prepared, while localised flooding and a marked drop in temperature is expected for parts of Wales and north-west England.
Scotland is braced for the harshest weather conditions: the Met Office has issued warnings for both snow and wind. But it is unlikely that any area will escape higher winds than normal.
A bus driver had to be freed after a large tree fell on his vehicle, trapping him inside in Witley, Surrey.
The single-decker Stagecoach bus was in Petworth Road when the oak tree, measuring 6ft across, fell on to it at about 8.25am.
A Surrey Police spokesman said: "It is believed that the driver, who was freed by fire crews, has suffered serious injuries and he is being taken to St George's Hospital in Tooting.
"There was only one passenger on board the bus at the time of the incident, who escaped uninjured.
"The tree is also believed to have damaged a nearby building."
Britain's biggest port, at Felixstowe was expected to remain closed for the rest of the day as lethal storms rage across the North Sea.
The QEII Bridge on the M25 between Essex and Kent at Dartford was shut after the Highways Agency said it was too dangerous to let traffic across.
Fallen trees and flooding also caused problems on many roads in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Surrey Police said traffic was delayed across the county as fallen trees closed roads, including the A287 Hindhead Road between Hindhead and Haslemere.
In West Sussex, flooding closed a lane on the eastbound A27 Chichester by-pass between Fishbourne Road and Oving Road and the B2100 was blocked both ways between Wadhurst and Mark Cross in East Sussex.
Meanwhile in the Thames Valley, hundreds of homes were plunged into darkness after the storms brought down power lines across the Reading area of Berkshire.
And in the South West, the Environment Agency has "yellow" flood alerts active on 21 rivers from Cornwall to Wiltshire.
The Tamar Bridge, which spans the river between Devon and Cornwall, has been closed to high-sided vehicles because of strong winds.
First Great Western rail services between Truro and Penzance are being affected by an obstruction blocking "all lines".
Transmanche cancelled its ferry services between Newhaven, in East Sussex, and Dieppe, as forecasters predicted gusts topping 70mph.
Wightlink cancelled its crossing from Lymington, Hants., to Yarmouth, on the Isle of Wight, while people heading to Dover were warned their ferries could also be affected by the high winds.
In Lymington itself, the A337 Southampton Road was blocked, due to a fallen tree, as was Bartons Way, in Havant, Hants., where a tree had fallen onto a parked car.
In Hamble Lane, in Bursledon, Hants., a telegraph pole was blown down, causing traffic chaos on surrounding roads as engineers had to make the area safe before removing the pole.
Fallen trees also blocked the A333 at Blashford and Newtown Road, in Southampton.
Parts of the south coast city were left in the dark as the weather caused power cuts
The latest round of unsettled weather will add more misery to the January blues as people return to work after the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Parts of Wales have seen gusts of more than 90mph in the early hours of today, with gusts of 93mph hitting Aberdaron in north Wales.
Weather experts predicted a marked drop in temperature yesterday, with the unusually mild conditions that prevailed over Christmas and the New Year making way for more seasonal mercury readings.
The British Met Office said: ''A spell of wet and very windy weather will affect the UK during Tuesday.''