Hurricane-force storm bears down on Britain
LONDON — Driving rain and high winds lashed the United Kingdom on Sunday evening, as officials warned that the storm forecasters are calling one of the worst in years will cause widespread disruptions for early morning commuters.
Officials said a 14-year-old boy is feared dead as a result of being swept out to sea while apparently playing in the surf in southern England. Coastguard and police rescuers searched late Sunday for the boy in high seas with poor visibility, but after several hours the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it had turned into a search-and-recovery operation.
Sussex police urged people to stay clear of the seashore until the storm — dubbed St. Jude and #Stormageddon on social networks — abates.
With winds expected to pick up through the night and into the early hours of Monday, railways and airports canceled many services pre-emptively amid warnings over treacherous road conditions and the risks of debris from falling trees and flooding.
Prime Minister David Cameron told government agencies to ensure that contingency plans were in place for transportation, schools and power supplies during the storm, which could have gusts stronger than 80 mph — akin to those in hurricanes.
Britain does not get hurricanes because of its geographic location.
Heathrow Airport canceled at least 60 flights ahead of the storm's arrival in full force, warning travelers to be prepared for disruptions. Rail networks canceled many trains pre-emptively through Monday morning, citing the high risk of trees and other debris expected to fall on train lines.
Eurostar said it would not be able to run any cross-English Channel rail services until 7 a.m. Monday to allow for train lines to be inspected.
Martin Young, the Met Office's chief forecaster, said that while the storm is “major” for the U.K., its winds are not expected to be as strong as those in the “Great Storm of 1987,” which had gusts of 115 mph and left 18 people dead.