Britain awaits worst storm in five years

St Albans floods
Flooding in St Albans last week: the Met Office is predicting that 20-40mm of rain could fall overnight. Photograph: Craig Shepheard/Demotix/Corbis

Heavy rain and high winds expected to bring flooding and major disruption to transport across England and Wales from Sunday


The worst storm in five years is forecast to hit England and Wales on Sunday night, bringing heavy rain, high winds and the threat of flooding and travel chaos.

Winds of more than 80mph could leave a trail of destruction across large parts of the UK, knocking down trees and causing major structural damage and power cuts.

The storm, named after St Jude – the patron saint of lost causes whose feast day is on Monday – will develop over the Atlantic and is expected to hit the south-west late on Sunday, before moving north-east across England and southern Wales.

The rough weather has led a number of rail companies to suspend or cancel their services. Greater Anglia said it would not run any trains before 9am on Monday, after which it would be running a reduced service, but said it aniticipated significant disruption through the day.

Southern trains said it would not be running its services – including the Gatwick express – on Monday morning until it was satisfied that it was safe to do so.

South West Trains has advised passengers not to travel on Monday and announced a significantly reduced service, with most of its trains not expected to run until at least 8am. Southeastern trains also indicated that its services may not begin until 9 or 10am on Monday.

David Cameron said he had spoken to the organisations responsible for public safety during the storm. The prime minister wrote on Twitter: “I’ve just chaired a call with various government departments and agencies to hear about all the plans to ensure people are protected from tonight’s storm.”

The weather system is expected to have moved out over the North Sea by Monday lunchtime, leaving strong breezes in its wake.

With the Met Office predicting that 20-40mm of rain could fall within six to nine hours overnight, insurance companies are advising households to protect themselves and their property.

People should also establish evacuation plans, place valuable items upstairs to limit flood damage and ensure gutters are clear so water can drain away.

The Met Office – which has issued an amber warning advising the southern half of England and the southern half of Wales to “be prepared” – described the storm as not one “you would see every year”.

It said the expected wind strengths would be similar to storms in March 2008, January 2007 and October 2000.

Gusts of 115 mph were recorded during the Great Storm of 1987, when 18 people died and thousands of homes were without power for several days.

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