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UK weather chaos: Two dead and thousands of homes without power as storm batters Scotland

Now the biggest tidal surge in 60 years threatens east coast

Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and two people have been killed after a powerful Atlantic storm hit the UK.

Emergency services have launched rescue operations after fierce winds and flooding swept across the country.

Parts of Newcastle city centre flooded after the River Tyne burst its banks.

And more than 10,000 homes on the coast have been earmarked for evacuation after officials warned that the lives of people in the regions could be at risk from the worst tidal surge for over 60 years.

Across the country more than 100,000 properties have been hit by power cuts as winds of up to 140mph battered powerlines.

One man died after he was struck by a falling tree in a park in Retford, Nottinghamshire and a lorry driver was killed when his HGV toppled on to a number of cars in West Lothian, Scotland.

The Environment Agency (EA) has issued a number of severe flood warnings - the highest category, which are only issued when flooding poses a danger to life - coastal areas in East Anglia, the Midlands and Kent.

The storm has also led to the evacuation of thousands of families as high tides and strong winds threatened to swamp the coastline.

In Norfolk, 9,000 homes are being evacuated as local officials attempt to stem the damage from the coastal surge.

A further 1,000 properties are to be evacuated in affected areas in Suffolk and some residents in Jaywick, near Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, are also being urged to leave their homes.

Local officials are setting up emergency accommodation facilities and handing out sandbags to help people protect their homes, police said.

Police in Humberside have also declared an emergency situation as they prepared for coastal surges from this evening.

In Newcastle the pavement around the base of the Tyne Bridge, the Millennium Bridge and the city's Crown Court were left completely under water.

Northumbria Police warned people to take extra care in the adverse weather conditions. A police spokesman said the places worst affected were Northumberland, North Tyneside and the Newcastle Quayside.

The EA has issued more than 230 flood alerts across England and Wales, including 43 severe flood warnings which are only issued when flooding poses a "significant threat to life".

The agency said communities along the North Sea coast from Northumberland to the Thames Estuary and Kent, in addition to those on the Irish Sea coast from Cumbria down to Cheshire, could see significant coastal flooding tonight and into Friday.

A spokesman said that in some areas sea levels could be higher than those during the devastating floods of 1953 - which battered the east coast of England and claimed the lives of hundreds of people.

Defences built since then - including the Thames and Hull barriers - mean that many parts of the country are much better protected, he said. However, some coastal flood defences could be "overtopped" by the combined effect of high tides, high winds and a large tidal surge, he said.

The Met Office said the Atlantic storm brought severe gales of between 60mph and 80mph across Scotland and northern parts of England, and some mountainous regions in Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire reported speeds of around 140mph.

The strong gusts led to 100,000 properties being affected by power outages, Northern Powergrid said.

At present 35,000 properties in the North East, Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire are still without power, the spokesman said.

The adverse weather has also caused chaos to the transport network.

This morning rail services for Scotland and parts of the north of England were suspended. Trains were halted at their nearest stations and passengers told to disembark after Network Rail said debris on lines and damage to equipment meant it was not safe to operate any services.

National Rail said train services in Scotland and northern England are starting to run again as routes are cleared of debris.

A spokesman said that the network is also taking steps to prepare for the storm surge expected to hit the East of England tonight.

A number of flights have also been disrupted by the bad weather.

And closures, fallen trees, minor accidents and incidents of flash flooding are affecting the road network in many parts of the UK.

John Griffiths, forecaster for MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said that people evacuating their homes on the east coast were also in for a "cold night"

Sub zero temperatures will grasp some areas affected by the severe flood warnings. Coastal areas in Lincolnshire will struggle to achieve -2C (28.4F), Norfolk and Suffolk will stay at 0C (32F) and the Kent coast will see temperatures of around 1C (34F).

And tomorrow clear spells will bring below average temperatures of about 4C (39F) in the East of England. Some areas of Scotland will also struggle to achieve -3C (26.6F). Meanwhile in the south west of England people will enjoy spells of around 10C (50F) to 11C (51.8F), Mr Griffiths said.

He said that the worst of the gale-force winds were over as the low pressure system hanging over Scotland earlier today has moved on.

"The worst winds were in Scotland," he said. "A low pressure system was deepening as it moved towards Scotland and it has now moved towards Scandinavia."

One weather station in Cairnwell, in the Highlands, recorded gusts of over 114mph, he said.

Scotland has also seen snow showers and heavy rainfalls, Mr Griffiths added.

"There was a bit of rain here and there but again, the most was in Scotland there was 35mm that fell over the last 12 hours in Cluanie, in the Highlands."

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who chaired two Cobra meetings today, said: "The country is braced for what could be further very serious storms and flooding overnight.

"Local agencies are already implementing their contingency plans.

"The Environment Agency is working closely with local authorities and has teams out on the ground checking flood defences, monitoring sea levels and issuing flood warnings where necessary.

"It is really important that people take steps to prepare for flooding, which is likely to occur overnight. Evacuations are already taking place in several places across the country.

"Clearly our priority is public safety and I urge people to act on the advice from the environment agency, police and local agencies."

:: People are being urged to check the Environment Agency website or follow @EnvAgency and £floodaware on Twitter for the latest updates on flood warnings.

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