WILD weather continued to batter the UK today as thousands of people recover from flooding and power disruption to their homes brought on by heavy downpours and gale-force winds.
Gusts of up to 90mph are expected to cut across Northern Ireland and parts of western Scotland, while there are warnings of up to 20cm of snow in Scotland and icy roads across much of England.
Storms caused by an Atlantic depression left 7,000 customers without electricity in Northern Ireland last night, though most have now been reconnected, with another 3,500 affected in north-west England and almost 900 without power in south Wales.
A search for a missing sailor who fell overboard from a small cargo ship on the River Trent in North Lincolnshire was called off last night in “very poor” conditions, and a 23-year-old woman died in the Republic of Ireland when a tree feel on her car near Mullingar in Co Westmeath.
A 19-year-old man was also injured and taken to hospital when his car was hit by a falling tree in Warwickshire.
Flood warnings telling of the need for immediate action were in place this morning, with 26 in the South West alone.
The Environment Agency said a number of rivers in Somerset and Devon could be liable to flood today, including the rivers Yeo, Tamar, Brue, Torridge, Teign and Axe.
Roads in Bristol flooded yesterday, while in Cardiff the fire service had to pump water from streets.
A further 116 flood alerts were in place, with many in Wales and the Midlands.
The bad weather is set to continue this morning, with winds of 70mph to 80mph and gusts of 90mph in western Scotland and the Western Isles, the Met Office said, with large waves threatening coastal areas.
Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) said last night that it expected further damage to the electricity network as bad weather is set to continue.
Some 1,000 customers were without electricity as of 11pm because of trees down across power lines and broken electricity poles, though NIE expected the number to rise during the night.
Spokeswoman Julia Carson said: “We were prepared for the storm and have already restored over 6,000 customers to power since the winds swept across Northern Ireland this afternoon.
“However, we are expecting the winds to peak in the early hours of the morning, causing additional disruption to electricity supplies, especially in eastern and northern areas.”
Coastguards and an RAF helicopter were last night searching for a a 45-year-old man, believed to be a foreign national, who fell overboard from a small cargo ship moored on the River Trent.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the man was working with ropes on the MV Sea Melody when he appeared to become entangled and was pulled over the side where he disappeared.
A helicopter from RAF Leconfield in East Yorkshire began a search and was joined by a coastguard team from Hull, but the search was called off because of gale force winds, and cold, driving rain, the MCA said.
Humber Coastguard watch manager Mike Puplett says ‘We understand that the crewman was not wearing a life jacket and, in these conditions particularly, I would say this should have been an essential bare minimum of safety equipment.”
The search would continue this morning, he added.
Police closed the A595 at Moota in Cumbria yesterday after the roof was blown off a hotel, and the M6 is partially closed southbound between junctions 38 and 37 because of an overturned lorry, the Highways Agency said. The motorway is expected to reopen fully from 8am.
Rail commuters could also face delays.
Strong winds and heavy rain are causing flooding and obstructions across the rail network in the south of England, National Rail said, affecting several CrossCountry and South West Trains routes.
Last night’s football fixtures were also hit by bad weather, with a Sky Bet Championship football match in Sheffield abandoned when heavy rain left the pitch unplayable.
Sheffield Wednesday’s home match against Wigan, at Hillsborough Stadium, was called off early in the second half after large puddles appeared on the playing surface.
Stoke City’s home tie against Manchester United in the League Cup was temporarily suspended due to heavy rain and hailstones.
At the Port of Dover in Kent, tugboats were on hand to help ferries berth amid strong gusts in the English Channel.
Officials said the port stayed open but ferry schedules were subject to “slight delay”.
A port spokesman said: “The safety of our customers and staff remains the port’s priority whilst efforts continue to minimise any disruption or delay to customers.”
Northern Ireland Electricity later said it had restored electricity supplies to around 10,000 customers. Just 70 remain without supply with engineers and emergency crews responding to faults in Co Down and Co Antrim.
Ms Carson said: “We may need to take some customers off supply this morning to facilitate permanent network repairs but we hope to have electricity restored to the majority of homes by lunchtime.”
Cumbria Police said it dealt with more than 60 weather-related incidents last night.
A number of roads are still affected in parts of the county.
The M6 southbound near junction 38 remains passable on the hard shoulder and lane one after an HGV was blown over. The male driver was taken to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary with minor injuries.
The A6 between Hackthorpe and Shap remains closed after a tree came down.
The A595 at Moota has reopened following its closure after a roof was blown off the former Moota Hotel.
A police spokesman said: “Police would like to thank everyone for their patience and ask that motorists continue to drive carefully.”