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Britain braced for wind and rain

Stormy weather is set to batter Britain with more wind and rain expected to exacerbate the affects of the storm just gone.

The weather overnight and through tomorrow is expected to cause travel disruption with people also urged to be prepared for flooding.

The Met Office has issued yellow and amber weather warnings, indicating "severe or hazardous weather" with potential to "cause danger to life or widespread disruption".

The worst-affected areas are expected to be northern England and northern parts of Wales, the Met Office said.

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency (EA) is warning of more "significant disruption" across southern England, adding: "It is possible that heavy rain may worsen the current flooding situation in some areas with rivers responding quickly to rain falling on already saturated ground."

The EA said the disruption would be "ongoing" particularly in the south east - such as along the River Medway and the Kentish Stour around Ashford and Canterbury.

Ongoing river flooding across the Somerset Levels, River Severn, River Thames and River Ouse in Cambridgeshire and rivers across Essex is expected, the EA said.

There are 53 flood warnings and 148 flood alerts in place, but the EA said the number of alerts may increase as rivers respond to the further band of rainfall.

To date, there have been 1,200 properties flooded in England.

Helen Roberts, a forecaster at the Met Office, said a system will "push in from the west overnight" resulting in widespread rain, but "t he strength of the wind is the main feature".

Ms Roberts said it would get "increasingly windy overnight", with severe gales likely on the west coast.

She warned that northern parts of Wales and north east England face a particularly stormy time through tomorrow warning with winds reaching upwards of 80mph.

Wind in western parts of Wales and south west England could reach speeds of 70mph, while inland areas could see gusts of 50-60mph.

Ms Roberts said the weather "almost certainly will have some impact" on people's plans, particularly due to the ground already being saturated in some parts.

The forecaster said it is likely that the new storm will "exacerbate problems" created in souther and south east England earlier in the week.

She also said there was "likely to be some transport issues".

Flights at Gatwick were affected when chaos ensued on Christmas Eve after a power outage at the North Terminal, and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it expected the West Sussex airport's bosses to examine exactly what caused the mayhem before deciding what further action to take.

A spokeswoman for the airport said it was currently operating on schedule, and said wind speeds of 45 knots is expected overnight and in the morning.

"We are telling passengers to check with their airline in advance," she said.

She described this week's weather as "unprecedented", and said it was the combination of gales and heavy rain that caused the problems.

On a visit to meet EA staff in Byfleet, Defra minister George Eustice said: "Having your home or business flooded at any time of year is an awful experience but especially so at Christmas and I would like to extend my sympathy to everyone who's been affected over the past couple of days.

"The emergency services, Environment Agency and power providers are working around the clock to ensure the floodwater is cleared and power returned to people's homes and businesses.

"With the potential for more flooding tonight, I urge everyone to follow the safety advice from the police and emergency services and be as prepared as possible by signing up to environment agency flood alerts."

The latest storm warning comes after thousands of people were left without power and hundreds were affected by floods over Christmas.

Meanwhile, firefighters broke their strike in parts of England because of the storms earlier this week.

A spokeswoman for easyJet, which was badly affected by Gatwick's North Terminal power outage, said the airline is "aware of the forecast weather being quite bad".

She said there are "plans in place", and said that at the moment the airline foresees its schedule to run as normal.

Southeastern said it is unlikely it will be able to run any metro or mainline train services until at least midday tomorrow, so customers should plan for later train services, the company said.

Network Rail advises that routes will need to be checked at first light and tracks will need to be cleared of any fallen trees and any damage will need repaired before train services can start.

Southeastern expects to be able to run some high speed services between Ashford and St Pancras International in the morning, but passengers are advised to check before setting out.

In a weather warning, Gatwick Airport said it had "additional teams of engineers, electrical staff and volunteers at the airport to minimise the risk of disruption from potential further flooding".

The statement also reminded people to plan their journey to and from the airport between now and the new year as a result of planned rail improvements.

"Replacement bus services and diversions could add up to two hours to journey times, so we're advising passengers to plan their route carefully, check before they travel and allow extra time to get to the airport," the airport said.

Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations at Network Rail, said: "Passengers have had a tough week of travelling and unfortunately that is likely to continue for at least another day.

"Thousands of railway workers have worked tirelessly over the holiday period to try and repair the significant damage caused by Monday's storm and will be called on again over the next 24 hours.

"As ever, safety comes first, as we ensure routes are safe for passengers services leading to a delayed start-up in some regions."

Network Rail said services in Kent and Anglia will have a delayed start up in the morning as engineers and train operators check lines are safe in full light following what they call "the major storm".

Passengers should not expect to see services in these areas start until mid to late morning and are advised to check operators' websites before starting out.


From Belfast Telegraph