Winds of more than 100mph battered Britain leaving an elderly man dead and leading to transport chaos across Yorkshire last night.
The Met Office had a ‘red’ weather warning in place for exceptionally strong winds in north-western parts of England and western parts of Wales, and the strongest gusts recorded across Yorkshire were 92mph at High Bradfield near Sheffield.
Gusts scattered debris and felled trees across roads and rail routes, flights were cancelled and some commuters were stuck in queues lasting hours on motorways on what has been dubbed ‘Wild Wednesday’.
Buildings were damaged including the roofs being blown off Selby train station and the swimming pool at Salendine Nook High School in Huddersfield where young swimmers were reportedly in the pool when the incident happened.
Gusts peaked at 108mph at Aberdaron in north west Wales, while 96mph winds were recorded off the south coast of England at the Needles, on the Isle of Wight.
Heavy rainfall compounded the problems in the South where the River Thames was predicted to rise to its highest level in more than 60 years in some places.
MeteoGroup said Capel Curig in North Wales had seen the UK’s highest rainfall with 35mm recorded from 6am to 6pm.
In Wiltshire, police confirmed a man in his 70s died in a suspected eletrocution while attempting to move a tree which brought down power cables.
A lorry driver was in hospital last night after high winds blew over his vehicle in Bristol and another man received treatment after becoming trapped under a fallen tree in Devon.
Firefighters across the country attended reports of dangerous structures and shortly after 5pm fire crews were summoned to the swimming pool at Salendine Nook High School.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said that between 4.30pm and 7.45pm it had taken 180 emergency calls, of which 50 were weather-related and concerned dangerous structures.
The roof of Selby train station was blown off, Northern Rail reported, and its footbridge was damaged, forcing the operator to cancel all trains to and from Selby, leaving no rail connections between York and Hull.
West Yorkshire firefighters were called to dangerous structures elswehere in Bradford, Slaithwaite and Cleckheaton.
The severe weather brought traffic to a standstill in parts. An overturned heavy goods vehicle at Scammonden Bridge led to two lanes being shut on the M62 westbound between junctions 22 and 23. The motorway was shut to high sided vehicles between junctions 22-24 in both directions, so too was the M1 at Tinsley Viaduct, the A628 Woodhead Pass over the Pennines and the A66.
Leeds City Council warned commuters that the Bridgewater Place junction would close from 5pm over safety concerns, but it did not stop severe delays on city centre roads. Metro said the closure was affecting bus services. Bridge Street in Bradford was shut to traffic and in Kirklees, the A640 New Hey Road between Outlane and Manchester was closed in both directions, as was a section of the A635 Woodhead Road between Holmfirth and Greater Manchester.
Train services were hit with fallen trees blocking lines between Sheffield, Huddersfield and Leeds via Barnsley. Services were suspended across Leeds North West and overhead line problems hit the Leeds-Doncaster route. A tree on the line halted services between Knottingley and Wakefield.
Northern Rail said the severe weather conditions meant it was unable to provide rail replacement services by road across the network.
Northern Powergrid said its major incident response plan was in operation. Extra engineering and contact centre staff were drafted in to carry out repairs and field calls from customers across Yorkshire. Residents took to Twitter to share news of power cuts, with residents in York, Bradford, Brough in East Yorkshire, Sowerby Bridge and the Ecclesall Road area of Sheffield reporting black outs.
Icy conditions were forcecast on higher ground overnight and North Yorkshire County Council said its gritting team would be out on priority roads in Harrogate, Thirsk and parts of Skipton this morning. Leeds City Council’s gritters were set to start their operations from 10pm last night.
Flood-hit communities meanwhile are braced for more rain. The Met Office forecasts 70mm of rain by Friday in the West Country - more than the region normally gets in the whole of February. South Wales, western Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of southern England are also likely to be deluged, and there are still 14 severe flood warnings in place in the Thames Valley.
Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a second Cobra meeting last night where he was assured that efforts were continuing around the clock to restore power and train services and re-open roads that had been forced to close.