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Posted: 2020-02-08 14:54:13

Storm Ciara is thundering eastwards towards Britain's shores and is set to pound the nation with strong gales and heavy rain this afternoon, as weather warnings are put in place across the country. 

Travel plans for many are likely to be scuppered as gusts of up to 90mph forcing delays and cancellations to air, train and ferry services. 

Yellow warnings have been issued by the Met Office for the North West, which will be the first to feel the brunt of the freak weather before it sweeps to blanket the entire country. 

Wind warnings for Sunday were also extended this afternoon to now cover much of England and Wales, 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.

Saturday morning
Saturday afternoon
Sunday

Storm Ciara is thundering eastwards towards Britain's shores and is set to pound the nation with strong gales and heavy rain this afternoon

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.

'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. 

Calm before the storm: The water is flat this morning on the River Mersey, which will be one of the first parts of the country battered by Ciara

Calm before the storm: The water is flat this morning on the River Mersey, which will be one of the first parts of the country battered by Ciara

Saturday morning saw a yellow warning of rain covering the entire country for Sunday while an amber wind warning was in place for some of the coast
The amber wind warning was later extended to cover much of England and Wales on Saturday afternoon, ahead of a blustery day predicted on Sunday

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.  

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
Ciara - the most widespread storm in seven years - will start its sweep across Scotland at around 3pm

Satellite images show 1,000 mile-wide Ciara being catapulted across the Atlantic on Saturday bring a large cloud swirl

The London 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'.

Network Rail has urged passengers to only travel tomorrow if 'absolutely necessary', and said many of its routes will run slower. 

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.' 

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.

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

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

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

All is quiet: Many people this morning tweeted their 'calm before the storm' pictures ahead of Storm Ciara

Today's weather
Sunday's weather

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.'

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)

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)

Warnings: Commuters have been told to be careful when on the roads and to expect delays on trains and ferries (Bournemouth is pictured before Storm Ciara on Saturday)

Warnings: Commuters have been told to be careful when on the roads and to expect delays on trains and ferries (Bournemouth is pictured before Storm Ciara on Saturday)

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.'   

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