Millions of people have been told to stay at home as one of the worst storms in decades, Storm Eunice, hits the UK.
The Met Office has issued a second rare red weather warning to cover London, the south-east and east of England.
A red warning – meaning there is a danger to life from flying debris – is already set to cover parts of south-west England and south Wales.
Hundreds of schools will be closed, all trains in Wales are suspended and the Army is on stand-by.
Forecasters warn Eunice could bring wind gusts of up to 90mph on Friday, causing significant disruption and power cuts.
BBC Weather said it “could well be one of the worst storms in three decades”.
There are concerns that Storm Eunice’s strong winds and a possible storm surge could combine with high spring tides to bring coastal flooding to the west, south-west and the south coast of England.
River flooding in the Pennines, North Yorkshire and Lancashire is expected during the weekend. The water level in rivers, lakes and streams is likely to rise and overflow due to a combination of after-effects of Storm Dudley and snow melting.
A government source told the BBC they were “well-prepared” with more than 250 high-volume pumps and 6,000 trained staff able to be deployed, adding they were not taking the threat posed by Eunice “lightly”.
In Cornwall and Somerset, residents are being urged to stay at home and only travel on Friday if “absolutely necessary”.
Both councils advised people to stay back from cliffs and seafronts due to the danger of large waves, with Cornwall warning of possible flooding during the high spring tides at about 06:00.
Council and emergency services staff in Gloucestershire and Avon and Somerset were due to knock on doors on Thursday afternoon to ensure people who need to evacuate from possible floods along the Severn Estuary can do so safely.
The government held an emergency Cobra meeting on Thursday to discuss the response to the incoming storm.
Prime Minister Mr Johnson said the Army was “on stand-by” to support those affected.
Eunice is the second storm in a week for the UK after Storm Dudley battered parts of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland, leaving thousands of homes without power.
The Met Office has issued several weather warnings across the UK:
- A red warning for wind – the highest level of alert -along the coastline of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset and south Wales from 07:00 GMT until 12:00 on Friday with gusts of up to 90mph
- A further red warning for wind has been issued for London, the south-east and parts of the east of England from 10:00 until 15:00
- An amber warning for wind covering all of England south of Manchester and Wales until 21:00 with gusts of up to 80mph
- A yellow warning for snow for much of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England from 03:00 until 18:00
- A yellow warning for wind in the Midlands, north-east England, north-west England, parts of Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland from 07:00 and 18:00 with gusts of up to 70mph
- A yellow warning for wind covering London, south-east England, south-west England, Wales and parts of the West Midlands from 06:00 to 18:00 on Saturday
Red weather warnings are rare, and mean that roofs could be blown off, power lines brought down and trees uprooted – as well as flying debris which could cause a danger to life.
The last red warning was for Storm Arwen in November last year, but before that one had not been issued since the so-called “Beast from the East” in 2018.
BBC Weather meteorologist Ben Rich said he expects Eunice to “cause damage, huge disruption and coastal flooding” – but he said it was “impossible to know exactly how bad this storm is going to be”.
“Winds of the same strengths will cause different impacts in different regions of the UK – for example, coasts of western Scotland are far better prepared for 80mph winds than inland parts of southern England.”
BBC Wales weatherman Derek Brockway said although Eunice was not a hurricane, winds will reach hurricane force level.
People have been warned to “tie down” objects in their gardens, fasten doors and windows and keep cars locked in garages if possible away from trees and walls.
And the Met Office said people should avoid travelling if they can and stay at home when winds reach the highest speeds.
Hundreds of schools are staying shut on Friday due to the high winds – including in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Bristol.