Monday, December 9, 2019

Storm Atiyah batters Britain with 70mph winds

Storm Atiyah batters Britain with 70mph winds amid warnings of power cuts and transport delays for morning commuters before Storm Brendan could strike with 100mph gusts on Tuesday

  • Met Office warnings remain in place for South West England until 9am and the North East until noon today
  • Forecasters will decide today if further 100mph winds tomorrow warrant being named Storm Brendan
  • Parts of Cornwall hit by 73mph gusts late last night as the South West and Wales are buffered by gales 
  • Inch of rain is expected to fall in some areas on election day this Thursday amid fears over voter turnout

Britain was hit by Storm Atiyah today with 70mph winds striking the country amid warnings of power cuts and transport delays for morning commuters.

Met Office weather warnings remain in place for South West England until 9am and the North East until noon today, before more winds of up to 100mph are forecast from a second storm due to hit the country tomorrow.

Parts of Cornwall were hit by 73mph gusts late last night as the South West and Wales were buffered by gales after the storm swept in from Ireland, where it disrupted transport and power networks.

A caravan park in Barlings, Lincolnshire, is still surrounded by floodwater – pictured yesterday – after the floods a month ago

The Met Office will decide today if the conditions tomorrow warrant being named the second storm of the winter, Storm Brendan – before up to an inch of rain is expected to fall in some areas on election day this Thursday.

Forecasters said delays are likely to road, rail, air and ferry transport, and that short-term loss of power is possible in some areas. The M48 Severn Bridge introduced lane closures yesterday due to increasing wind speeds.

Western Power Distribution said it had experienced 26 high voltage faults in the south-west on Sunday and two in Wales, leading to 5,500 customers being cut off from power over the course of the day.

Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said: ‘The strong winds are pretty widespread. It’s very windy in the west and south-west so that’s where we’re going to see the greatest impact unfortunately.’ 


Commuters today have been warned of strong winds (left) on a day when temperatures will struggle to get to double figures

A Mercedes car on the road was crushed under scaffolding yesterday after it fell from the side of a house in Cardiff


Weather warnings for the South West and North East today (left) and a rain warning for parts of Scotland tomorrow (right)

In the South West, Coastsafe, a partnership campaign aiming to improve coastline safety, urged people to be wary of tidal surges and debris being thrown over sea walls during the storm.

Will the severe weather affect election turnout? 

The prospect of the first winter election since 1974 has led to speculation that conditions could affect turnout, although suggest that the weather has little impact.

A 2007 University of Chicago study found voter turnout decreased by 1 per cent for every extra inch of rain. But research in 2013 from Gothenburg University in Sweden found no link between rain and turnout.

Another study by Oxford University found no connection between weather and how many people voted. Instead, it concluded how close the election race was and how clear the differences were between the parties’ policies was more likely to have an influence.

Polls show the Tory lead over Labour has narrowed to eight points, while Brexit remains the defining issue when voters make their decision in three days’ time.

Speaking before the 2017 General Election, Stephen Fisher, an associate professor of political sociology at Oxford University, said: ‘There’s basically no correlation between the weather and turnout.’

Chris Curtis, political manager at YouGov, said: ‘Most of the evidence shows that weather actually has quite a small effect on turnout and factors such as how close the election is perceived to be and how different the parties’ positions are normally have more of an impact.’

The weather for the February 1974 election was bad but turnout was 79 per cent, compared to 71 per cent for Labour’s ‘landslide’ victory in May 1997 when temperatures were in the mid-20s.

Four years later, turnout was just 59 per cent – attributed to a comfortable Labour win being expected and policies that were not particularly distinct from the Conservatives’.

Meanwhile, a second strong storm will hit tomorrow, with gusts potentially reaching 100mph. The Met Office has forecast England and Scotland will be ‘windy across all areas’ with severe gales possible in the North West.

By Thursday, parts of the UK could be drenched by close to an inch of rain in the 24-hour period covering election day. Areas along the west coast of England and Scotland are due to have heavy showers and blustery wind.

The day will also start off freezing, with temperatures ranging between -3C (27F) and 0C (32F) across the country as polling stations open.

Most rainfall will happen tomorrow, when up to 2.5 inches will fall in parts of Scotland, according to Met Office meteorologist Emma Smith. Wednesday will also be wet and windy.

The band of showers moving across the country on Thursday will deposit around a third of an inch of rain throughout the day in most of England and Wales, although East Anglia should be largely dry.

Temperatures will be -3C (27F) in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, when polling stations open at 7am, with -1C (30F) in the north and 0C (32F) in the south.

Daytime highs will reach 11C (52F) in Plymouth, 5C (41F) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and 7C in Glasgow (45F). Mrs Smith advised voters: ‘Wrap up warm and take waterproofs and an umbrella.’

Yesterday saw a string of sailings to and from Scotland’s islands cancelled, with warnings of more disruption tomorrow.

High winds put paid to sailings between Ardrossan and Brodick, Barra to Eriskay, Oban to Castlebay, Tayinloan to Gigha, Tarbert to Portavadie and all services from Mallaig.

Met Office figures show 3in (78.4mm) of rain fell at Achnagart in Ross-shire, between midday on Saturday and midday yesterday. By contrast, only 2in (56mm) fell in Ross and Cromarty during most of November.

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