UK & World News
Weather Alert: 95mph Winds And Tidal Surges
Parts of the UK are suffering some of the worst weather conditions for 30 years as a combination of gale-force winds and large waves threaten to bring severe flooding.
Winds of more than 100mph have been battering Scotland, where a total of 20,000 homes have been left without power.
The Environment Agency and Met Office are predicting huge tidal surges within 48 hours that could see water levels breach sea defences along the east coast of England.
Forecasters warned that sea levels in some places could be as high as in 1953's devastating flooding - when 326 deaths in eastern counties of England and Scotland exposed weaknesses in Britain's flood defences.
Train operators are asking commuters to prepare for delays and Scotrail cancelled all trains before 7am today.
As winds got stronger - with a gusts of 106mph recorded at Glenogle in Stirlingshire - Network Rail Scotland said Glasgow Central station had been evacuated "due to debris smashing glass in the roof", although it said no one had been hurt.
The Environment Agency has issued 23 severe flood warnings - its highest category. All but one of these applies to the Anglian region.
Areas most at risk include the North Sea coast from Northumberland down to the Thames Estuary and Kent.
At present, there are also 99 flood warnings and 59 flood alerts in place.
The tidal reaches of the River Trent in Nottinghamshire may be affected by the adverse conditions, while on the west coast, from Cumbria down to Cheshire, severe gales and large waves combined with high water levels are also expected.
Environment Agency chief executive Dr Paul Leinster said: "Gale-force winds and large waves along the east coast of England are forecast during Thursday and Friday, coinciding with high tides and a significant coastal surge.
"Flooding of some coastal communities is expected and some defences could be overtopped by the combined effect of high tides, high winds and a tidal surge.
"Coastal paths and promenades will be highly dangerous as there is an increased risk of people being swept out to sea."
If the predictions are correct the UK will experience some of its most severe weather since a storm in October that saw hurricane-force winds rip through the south of the country, killing four people.
The Met Office has already issued a flurry of weather warnings, having told people in parts of Scotland and northern England they could face a short, sharp, stormy spell of weather over the next 48 hours.
Sky News weather producer Chris England said: "Damaging 90mph gusts are likely in the far north and northwest, while Scotland's central belt can expect gusts of over 70mph."
Forecasters said the winds would turn more northerly on Thursday afternoon and into Friday, bringing cold air and snow showers down from the Arctic.
England has been largely spared extreme weather so far this winter, although that is expected to change when northerly winds from the Arctic bring freezing temperatures to large parts of the UK with snow showers affecting Scotland, Northern Ireland, parts of northern England, north Wales and the east coast from today.
Temperatures are due to plummet to as low as -4C (25F) overnight tonight in parts of Scotland with the bitter northerly winds set to leave the rest of the country shivering.
The weather is likely to bring a certain amount of disruption to transport services, with Network Rail already bracing customers in Scotland and parts of north and eastern England for delays.
Robin Gisby, Network Rail's director of operations, said: "As we saw with the recent storm which affected the south of England, being prepared and on top of severe weather is key to helping us resume normal levels of services as quickly as possible.
"We will be monitoring conditions on the ground closely throughout the night and into the morning and will have teams in place to react quickly to any damage caused by the weather.
"We will keep as much of the network open as is possible however the potential extreme nature of the conditions and the impact it could have on our infrastructure means that speed restrictions and other measures are necessary in the interests of the safety of passengers and our staff."