Parts of UK hit by gale-force winds and heavy rain as Storm Alex arrives
Gale-force winds of up to 61mph are battering the South West of the country as Storm Alex moves in from France.
The storm has pushed strong winds and lashing rain into southern England, causing travel chaos and disrupting power lines in the South West and on the Isle of Wight.
Breakdown cover provider Green Flag has forecast nine breakdowns per minute on UK roads between Friday and Monday.
Mark Newberry, commercial director at Green Flag, said he expects the most callouts on Saturday, with a 10% increase in breakdowns compared to usual.
“As a result of these weather conditions, we urge drivers to remain cautious and to carry out the relevant safety checks before leaving to make their journeys,” he said.
RAC Breakdown and the AA have also warned drivers to take extra care over the weekend, as some roads may become flooded.
RAC Breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Storm Alex will make road conditions miserable if not downright dangerous for drivers at the end of this week, and they’ll need to be prepared for an ugly mix of surface spray, gusty winds and more than likely some disruption on the roads.
“Floods are also a possibility so drivers should remember never to attempt to drive through water unless they know for sure that it’s shallow enough.”
Ben Sheridan, AA Patrol of the Year, advised drivers to ensure the lights and wipers work and the tyres are in good condition before heading out, allow extra time for journeys at a slower speed, and to find another route if they are faced with flood waters.
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks recorded unplanned power outages in more than 20 areas including Portsmouth, Southampton and towns east of Reading, according to the customer interactive map.
The company said this is however normal, rating the shortage as “low incidence”, adding the cuts were concentrated to small areas, with power lines generally “holding up very well”.
Western Power Distribution has also recorded incidents in the South West, affecting Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset.
National industry body for gas and electricity Energy Networks Association said the storm has not caused “significant disruption” but that it is monitoring the weather “very closely”.
Met Office spokeswoman Nicola Maxey said the highest wind speeds of 61mph hit Berry Head in Devon and the Isle of Wight on Friday morning, making power lines “susceptible to damage”.
She added power cuts are more likely in early autumn because trees still have their leaves which means branches are more likely to fall in high winds and disrupt cables.
Ms Maxey said the wet and windy weather will be moving up from the South West and Wales, towards the North of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland throughout Friday afternoon – though the rain will become lighter.
Amber weather warnings for the heaviest rainfall likely to cause transport disruption are in place for parts of Wales, and parts of the West Midlands and south-west England until 6pm on Sunday.
Gale-force winds brought by Storm Alex will subside by the end of Friday, but yellow weather warnings for rain will remain in place for most of the UK over the weekend.
Ms Maxey said: “A second rain front is coming to replace Storm Alex over the weekend, pushing in from the east on Saturday morning and affecting western areas later on.
“The rain is slowly pushing north but it will be relieved as it goes.
“On Saturday, most of the country will be affected by rain, and it’s looking heaviest in the centre, down the spine of the country from Aberdeen to Bristol.”
Autumnal temperatures of 10-15C are forecast over the weekend, with the coolest temperatures expected in Scotland.
Carol Holt, flood duty manager at the Environment Agency, added that “widespread and persistent rain is likely to lead to flooding” in some areas over the weekend.
Ms Holt said: “Flooding is also possible in parts of southern England today.
“We urge people to stay away from swollen rivers and not to drive though flood water – it is often deeper than it looks and just 30cm of flowing water is enough to float your car.”