Hundreds of flights into and out of European airports were cancelled as Britain’s biggest storm in seven years swept into Scotland and the rest of the UK was put on warning for 90mph winds on Sunday.
Storm Ciara was thundering eastwards towards Britain’s shores and had already brought gusts of up to 70mph on the west coast of Scotland on Saturday as weather warnings were put in place across the country.
The bad weather, which is set to fully batter the UK tomorrow, has already brought chaos in the air as nearly 200 flights into and out of Europe, as well as dozens to and from UK airports, were cancelled or delayed.
In Scotland, officials put in place a 40mph speed limit on the Queensferry Crossing, and ferry services were also cancelled after a weather warning for gusts of up to 75mph was issued by the Met Office.
Earlier, yellow weather warnings were issued for the North-West, which will also bear the brunt of the freak weather before it sweeps to blanket the entire country into Sunday.
Wind and rain warnings for tomorrow were also extended this afternoon to cover all of the UK ahead of the strongest storm for seven years hitting.
Power networks are bracing for blackouts from gales wreaking havoc on overhead electric cables, and reassured the public they have crews on standby.
Forecasters have warned that flying debris could lead to injuries or danger to life, and there may also be delays and cancellations to air, ferry and train services, damage to buildings and a chance of power cuts.
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Storm Ciara has landed on Britain’s shores and is set to pound the nation with strong gales and heavy rain. Pictured: Waves battered the Cornish coastline at Porthleven this afternoon as winds picked up the pace in the South-West of the country
In Scotland, officials put in place a 40mph speed limit on the Queensferry Crossing, and ferry services were also cancelled after strong winds. Pictured: A satellite image shows clouds covering all of Northern Ireland and a large part of Scotland
The looming disruption in the air has already seen cancellations and delays at UK airports.
London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports have both seen disruption, leaving many passengers faced with hours of chaos.
Travellers leaving Gatwick are faced with 41 delays and one cancellation, while Heathrow has since 37 flight delays and a further three cancellations.
Elsewhere around the country, flights are disrupted into and out of Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool airports.
The storm has also prompted all eight of London’s Royal parks, including Richmond and Hyde Park, to be shut until Monday, while in Ireland, the opening ceremony of Galway’s year as European capital of culture has also been called off.
Met Office chief meteorologist Frank Saunders said: ‘Storm Ciara will bring damaging winds and heavy rain across the UK this weekend and we have issued a range of severe weather warnings giving people time to prepare for potential impacts of the storm.
Hundreds of flights into and out of European airports were cancelled as Britain’s biggest storm in seven years swept into Scotland and the rest of the UK was put on warning for 90mph winds on Sunday. Pictured: Surfers take advantage of stormy waves in Pembrokeshire, Wales on Saturday
Blackrock Diving Tower in Salthill, County Galway, in Ireland, was battered by waves brought by Storm Ciara
London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports have both seen disruption, leaving many passengers faced with hours of chaos. Pictured: A British Airways flight sweeps across a magnificent image of a super snow full moon, the name given to the time of the month when the satellite is closest to earth
The moon was pictured shining brightly in the sky above London’s Shard building on Saturday evening
‘Winds will increase through Saturday across Northern Ireland, Scotland, northern England and Wales, before turning very windy across the rest of UK through the early hours of Sunday morning.
‘Gusts of 50-60mph are expected quite widely across inland areas, with even stronger gusts of 80mph or higher along coastal areas, especially in south-east England and northern Scotland.’
Fog, snow and rain will bucket down on much of the nation and high winds are powerful enough to rip tiles from roofs, forecasters warned.
Storm Ciara is strengthening into a ‘weather bomb’ as its air pressure plunges by 24 milibars in 24 hours by 12noon on Sunday, qualifying it as a ‘weather bomb.’
Weather maps show 1,000 mile-wide Ciara being catapulted across the Atlantic, bringing 30ft waves to the South-West and North-West coasts and 50ft waves offshore.
The impending arrival of the storm did not stop surfers from enjoying the waves at Langland Bay in Swansea on Saturday afternoon
Calm before the storm: The water was flat this morning on the River Mersey, which will be one of the first parts of the country to be battered by Ciara
Tomorrow a yellow warning of rain covers the entire country while an amber warning for wind has been extended to cover almost all of England and Wales
Drivers are being warned to take extra care on the roads due to the potential of difficult conditions caused by heavy rain, particularly on coastal or exposed routes.
In Scotland, the bad weather prompted officials to put in place a 40mph speed limit on the Queensferry Crossing, while ferry passengers also faced disruption, with many Caledonian MacBrayne services cancelled due to the conditions.
Robert Morrison, Caledonian MacBrayne’s director of operations, said: ‘Weather for the weekend is looking extremely problematic as far as delivering a scheduled timetable.
‘There is a very high possibility of weather related disruption to services across all 28 of our routes so people should be aware of this before setting off on their journey.
‘We will of course be looking keep sailings running when conditions allow.
‘I would urge passengers to allow extra time for their journey, keep track of the status of their sailing on the website or on social media and be prepared for delays and cancellations.’
The Met Office also warned that homes and businesses in the Scottish Borders are likely to be flooded, with a chance that some communities may be cut off by flooded roads.
An amber warning of heavy rain in the region between 2am and 10am on Sunday was also issued.
Several bridges were closed to high sided vehicles on Saturday with the Erskine, Dornoch, Skye and Kessock Bridges among those affected.
In the Highlands a lorry overturned on the A96 at Gollanfield. Police said there were no reports of any injuries.
However the road will remain closed overnight as it is not safe to recover the vehicle at the moment due to high winds.
But the bad weather has been tempered by the beautiful sight of the of the full snow moon. Pictured: The moon lingers behind the Spinnaker tower in Portsmouth, Hampshire
Rail passengers faced disruption after a tree on the line blocked the route between Elgin and Keith and ScotRail said the railway line would be closed until it could be removed.
In Aberdeenshire, a coach overturned on the B9000 at the A90 slip road for Newburgh.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued 15 flood alerts and 17 flood warnings.
Yellow warnings of high winds were also in place across Scotland for Sunday.
Meanwhile Network Rail said that winds of up to 90mph are expected on the West Highland Line and the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh routes on Sunday and said that services will be suspended during the worst of the weather.
The company tweeted: ‘We expect extreme winds of 80-90mph to affect the West Highland Line & Inverness – Kyle of Lochalsh tomorrow. Services will be suspended on those routes during the worst of the weather tomorrow. It’s not safe to run in these conditions.
‘Once the storm passes, we’ll inspect both routes with locomotives on Monday at first light for obstructions before reopening.’
The rail manager said there will be a 50mph precautionary speed limit for trains, adding that ‘major travel disruption’ is expected.
They advised passengers to ‘only travel by train this Sunday if absolutely necessary’.
Disruption could continue into Monday morning as repair work may be hampered by the conditions.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has issued 15 flood alerts and 20 flood warnings.
Those venturing outdoors are also being advised to wrap up as the storm brings a cold snap which will plunge temperatures as low as -5C.
Ciara – the most widespread storm in seven years – will start its sweep across Scotland at around 3pm, just over an hour before the country’s rugby team faces off against England in Edinburgh.
The Six Nations clash is still scheduled to go ahead, but many other events across the weekend have been axed for fear the blustery conditions will cause carnage.
A Scottish Rugby spokesman said: ‘Scottish Rugby is looking forward to welcoming fans to the international matches being held this weekend. As part of our usual preparations we are closely monitoring weather forecasts in light of potential adverse conditions.’
Satellite images show 1,000 mile-wide Ciara being catapulted across the Atlantic on Saturday bring a large cloud swirl
And revellers in Galway faced disappointment in Ireland too as the opening night for the city’s stint as the European capital of culture was called off. It had been due to take place on Sunday.
The Galway ceremony organisers said: ‘We have been in constant contact with the relevant authorities since the weather warnings were put in place earlier this week and, in the interests of the safety of the public the weather warnings currently in place mean that it has been deemed unsafe to go ahead.
‘We are saddened for the community cast, our volunteers and the whole team who have worked so hard during the last weeks and months.
‘Today’s event would have marked the finale of what has been a hugely successful week-long series of events on the fire tour of lighting ceremonies that have lit up towns across the county.’
Shop owners in the city were seen preparing for the impending wind and rain by putting up sandbags.
In London, the Winter Run 10k event – due to be attended by 25,000 runners tomorrow- was cancelled after organisers said they were ‘not able to guarantee the safety of our runners, crew and volunteers’.
Shop owners in the city were seen preparing for the impending wind and rain by putting up sandbags
The rain is set to batter Ireland overnight and into Sunday and it has prompted the owners of Coco Cafe in Salthill, County Galway, to put up defences
The cafe’s owners hope that sandbags will keep out the rain being swept in by the high winds
And the charity which runs London’s Royal parks, which also include Regent’s Park and Green Park, announced on their website and in a Twitter post that all of the green spaces would be closed on Sunday.
The body said they had made the decision after discussions with their ‘tree experts’ and their health and safety team.
The parks are home to 170,000 trees, many of which are vulnerable to high winds, they said.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams also expected bad conditions, saying: ‘It’s Black Sunday for travel. More road accidents are expected due to debris and vehicles being blown off course.’
Alex Burkill, a meteorologist at the Met Office, said the wet and windy weather is ‘the prelude, if you will, to what is Storm Ciara’.
He said the most pressing of the Met Office warnings is the amber wind warning.
‘That’s where we’re likely to see significant impacts from the wind. We’re taking some damage to property, flying debris, and that could bring the risk of injury to people, as well as just the usual things such as power outages and disruption to travel.
‘It is worth bearing in mind that the strong winds on Sunday are going to be very widespread so it’s across the whole of the UK where we’re going to see very strong winds, so the impact will be widespread.’
People in coastal towns are being warned not to get too close to the water, which will spray high over sea walls amid gusty weather.
The charity which runs London’s Royal parks, which also include Regent’s Park and Green Park, announced on their website and in a Twitter post that all of the green spaces would be closed on Sunday
Enjoy it while it lasts! Two people were seen enjoying a walk on the beach in Bournemouth, Dorset, on Saturday before Storm Ciara is set to hit the UK
Winter sun: Dozens of people made the most of the bright but nippy day for a stroll along the beach in Bournemouth, Dorset
Guy Addington, regional water safety lead at the RNLI, said: ‘This rough weather could making visiting our coasts around the UK and Ireland treacherous and bring very dangerous sea conditions.
‘If you see someone else in danger in the water, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. If you have something that floats that they can hold on to, throw it to them. Don’t go in the water yourself – too many people drown trying to save others.’
Some ferry journeys have also been effected by the bad weather, with the Brittany Ferries Portsmouth to St Malo service set to leave on Sunday now being diverted to Cherbourg.
Other changes include times being adjusted on trips to and from Le Havre and Sunday’s two Cherbourg to Poole trips being cancelled.
Tomorrow, a yellow warning of wind covers the entire country, while an amber warning has been issued for south-east England as Ciara rolls down towards the continent.
Many attractions have dismayed tourists by shutting shop, including the Royal Parks which announced it will be closing all of London’s eight parks, including Green Park, Hyde Park and St James’s Park.
In a statement they said: ‘In liaison with our tree experts and Health and Safety team we have made this decision to ensure the safety of all park users including vehicle users and cyclists.’
All is quiet: Many people this morning tweeted their ‘calm before the storm’ pictures ahead of Storm Ciara
Storm conditions will begin to affect Scotland today (left) before the whole of Britain is set for a soaking on Sunday (right)
Weather maps show 1,000 mile-wide Ciara being catapulted across the Atlantic, bringing 30ft waves to south west and north west coasts and 50ft waves offshore.
Wind remains a problem on Monday but it is the additional threat from heavy snow which has prompted yet another yellow warning, between midnight on Sunday and noon on Tuesday.
Areas above 490ft (150m) can expect up to an inch of snow, rising to four inches above 980ft (300m). The Met Office has also forecast lightning strikes, blizzards and ‘considerable drifting of lying snow’.
Looking further ahead, Chief meteorologist Frank Saunders added: ‘In the wake of Storm Ciara, it’ll remain unsettled and very windy across the UK and it’ll turn colder with wintry showers and ice an additional hazard, as we head into the new week.’
CalMac director of operations, Robert Morrison, said: ‘Weather for the weekend is looking extremely problematic as far as delivering a scheduled timetable. There is a very high possibility of weather-related disruption to services across all 28 of our routes.’
Ben Aldous, RAC patrol of the year, said: ‘Drivers will need to take extreme care with the strong winds forecast for this weekend, especially on coastal or exposed routes. Combine the strength of the wind with heavy showers, and you have a recipe for some treacherous driving conditions.
‘We strongly recommend drivers reduce their speed and leave plenty of space between their vehicle and those around them, and be particular careful when passing high-sided vehicles when the potential for strong cross-winds could blow them off course. Drivers in rural areas should be particularly cautious of falling debris.’
All about to change? The weather is predicted to become blustery with the chance of snow as a new week starts (pictured is Bournemouth beach on Saturday)