England recorded its strongest wind on Friday as one of the fiercest storms to hit the UK and Ireland in years swept in from the Atlantic Ocean, causing deaths, damage and widespread disruption, and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power.
Gusts of 122mph were recorded on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, which the Met Office said were provisionally the highest on record in England. The agency had previously issued rare red weather warnings, indicating danger to life, across parts of southern England and Wales.
Three deaths were reported in England: a woman in north London after a tree fell on a car, a man in Hampshire whose vehicle collided with a fallen tree, and and a man on Merseyside whose vehicle was struck by flying debris. Several serious injuries were also reported across the country.
Three people were killed in Amsterdam and one person died in Ireland as the second major storm this week crashed through northern Europe.
Hundreds of flights and thousands of train services were canceled as the winds barrelled across the UK. Several of the largest ports closed.
In England, London’s O2 Arena, the venue formerly known as the Millennium Dome, suffered damage when a large chunk of its canopy roof was ripped off.
Energy Minister Greg Hands tweeted that power had been restored to 711,000 people who had lost it but warned that “more disruption is likely”. The London Fire Brigade said it had declared a “major incident” because of the volume of emergency calls.
Air travel was badly affected, as the high winds closed London City Airport for much of Friday, and disrupted London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports, among others. At least 436 flights had been canceled by early afternoon, according to flight data provider Cirium.
Flight tracking service Flightradar24 showed several aircraft had diverted to other European airports.
At one stage more than 215,000 people were watching Big Jet TV, a live stream with commentary of planes struggling to land at Heathrow.
British Airways captain Kirsten Molyneaux, who flew into Heathrow on Friday, described “a challenging arrival”.
“The decision we have to make as pilots is whether or not the approach feels right, and if not, we take no risks, we go around and we try again. . . As pilots we know our passengers have all their trust in us and we take that responsibility very seriously indeed, ”she said.
The UK’s three largest container ports – Felixstowe, London Gateway and Southampton – all suspended operations. Other ports, including Liverpool and Dover, are also temporarily closed.
Rail services were badly affected, as passengers across the UK were told not to travel and warned to expect disruption into the weekend as overhead power lines were checked and tracks cleared of obstacles.
All trains in Wales and on operators including South Western Railway, Great Western Railway and Chiltern were suspended on Friday. Other operators canceled significant parts of their schedules.
Stagecoach suspended its bus services in Kent and East Sussex except for those serving hospitals, while First Bus canceled services in and around Bristol.
Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, urged Londoners to “stay at home until the storm has passed”.
Royal Mail warned of “severe disruption” to deliveries of letters and parcels across the UK after suspending operations in areas under a red weather warning. Rival DHL said parcels for delivery in Scotland, Wales and the south-west may be delayed for 24 hours and warned that further delays could follow.
Several road bridges were closed for parts of Friday, including both the M4 Prince of Wales Bridge and the M48 Severn Bridge, which link England and Wales. National Highways said it believed it was the first time both bridges had been forced to close simultaneously.
In an interview with Sky News on Friday, home office Minister Damian Hinds urged the public to “take precautions” and “make sure they stay safe. Weather is unpredictable and it is really important that we all continue. . . to take. . . precautions and try to keep everyone safe, ”he said.