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Storm Abigail arrives early: Met Office updates weather warnings for 90mph winds and

Northern Ireland is predicted to escape the worst but temperatures are expected to drop with strong winds, heavy rain and wintry conditions on higher ground.

Storm Abigail is set to batter the UK earlier than expected with warnings issued for lightning, 90mph winds and potential disruption to transport and power networks.

The storm, the first to be named by the Met Office, is expected to hit many northern parts of the UK.

The Met Office's severe weather warning has been updated which brought the expected start forward from Thursday evening forecasting gales to this afternoon which saw northern Scotland already feeling the impact.

The storm was expected to start from early evening on Thursday through to Friday lunchtime.

In a new set of warnings, the Met Office said a month’s rain could fall in less than 48 hours over the weekend, bringing flooding to some areas.

The amber "be prepared" warning covers the Western Isles, parts of Argyll and the north west Highlands and Orkney.

There has also been a warning for large waves hitting coastal areas.

Met Office chief forecaster said: "A vigorous depression is expected to pass just to the northwest of Scotland on Thursday night bringing a swathe of very strong winds on its eastern and southern flanks.

"In addition, conditions will become very unstable leading to heavy, squally showers with lightning at times. There remains some uncertainty regarding the exact extent and timing of strongest winds and the extent of impacts and this warning will be kept under review.

"The public should be prepared for disruption to transport and perhaps power supplies."

While Northern Ireland is predicted to escape the worst, temperatures are expected to drop with strong winds, heavy rain and wintry conditions on higher ground.

Saturday is expected to begin bright before the wind and rain again take hold.

The Met Office, as part of a project with the Irish service, Met Eireann, has begun naming the storms expected in the UK and Ireland.

It's hoped a single system will help communicate weather warnings better to the public.

The public was asked to contribute to the project by providing the names.

After Abigail, the next storm will be named Barney.

November has, so far, been milder than usual, with temperatures far exceeding the average for this time of year.

Yesterday, a temperature of 16.1C was recorded at Murlough, Co Down, making it the warmest November night since records began.

A Met Office spokesman said a mild air being pushed up from the tropics has been responsible for the unseasonable conditions.

He added: "We have had very mild south-westerly air flowing over the UK which is drawn up from over the tropics.

"On the other side of the Atlantic the jet stream is turning southwards and so what goes down most come up as warm air is being pushed north.

"We have had a few weeks now where we have enjoyed winds coming from that direction."

The conditions are expected to change though after Storm Abigail, the first storm to be named by the Met Office, hits northern Scotland later this week with winds expected to be up to 80mph.

This will usher in a drop in temperatures, including the possibility of some snow in high places in Northern England and Scotland, but even then the temperatures are expected to be around the average for November.

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