Tue, 13 Dec 2011 08:22 CST
Tue, 13 Dec 2011 08:22 CST
Much of the UK faces several days of battering winds and localised blizzards as a pair of particularly severe weather systems pass over the country.
The bad weather claimed a life on Tuesday night when an HGV driver was killed in a collision involving two cars and three lorries on the M5 in Gloucestershire, police said.
Many parts of England and Wales experienced gales and driving rain on Monday night. The UK's former ambassador to Venezuela and Chile had to be rescued by firefighters after a tree crashed through the roof of his family home in Winchester, Hampshire. Emergency services said 65-year-old Richard Wilkinson had an extremely lucky escape after the 18m (59ft) tree crushed the bungalow. "I was between sleeping and awake, listening to the storm outside when there was an enormous crash like the Eiffel Tower falling into the Crystal Palace," he said.
With winds gusting up to 70mph, Hampshire police said they had received more than 200 calls about flooding and fallen trees over 24 hours.
The Environment Agency had more than 50 flood alerts in force, including Keswick in Cumbria. London saw 20mm of rain fall overnight, 40% of the December average.
There is more of the same to come, with some added snow, said Helen Chivers from the Met Office, which has issued severe weather warnings for much of the country up to Friday. "It's classic British winter weather - the sort we've all forgotten about," she said.
Later on Tuesday gales will batter the north of Northern Ireland and the west of Scotland, peaking at 80mph in coastal areas, where ferry services in the west of Scotland have been hit.
This will be combined with driving rain and, on higher ground, heavy snowfalls, mainly in the Borders and in Dumfries and Galloway.
"We could see as much as 15cm of snow in some places," said Chivers. "With the wind there could be blizzard conditions and drifting, and the roads will be icy. Even on lower ground, with the rain and wind it will be pretty miserable." Conditions should ease during Wednesday and early Thursday, but only before the arrival of another storm system, which is massing over the Atlantic.
This had been expected to hit the north but is now forecast to bring gusts up to 80mph to the Channel and other southern waters, with snow possible in the Pennines and north Wales.
This all remained subject to change, Chivers said.
"I think the most important message is that there's still a lot of uncertainty about where this weather system could go, so people need to keep up to date with forecasts and warnings," she said.