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Storm chaos – rain and gales lash county as school holidays begin
DORSET was bracing itself for a battering last night as one of the worst storms in recent years was forecast to sweep across the county.
Roads were expected to be badly affected, cross-Channel ferries have been cancelled and South West Trains did not expect to run services until at least 8am today, causing problems for thousands of commuters.
Met Office experts said the Atlantic storm, with up to 80mph hurricane strength gusts, was likely to hit Bournemouth at around midnight and last throughout this morning’s rush-hour.
Residents have been warned to stay indoors as it was feared the storm, dubbed St Jude after the patron saint of depression and lost causes, could cut a swathe of destruction across the South West.
Large waves were expected to smash into the Dorset coastline and the Environment Agency has warned people to stay away from seafronts and quaysides.
Torrential downpours and localised flooding have also been predicted across Dorset.
Martin Young, chief forecaster at the Met Office, said: “While this is a major storm for the UK, we don’t currently expect winds to be as strong as those seen in the ‘Great Storm’ of 1987 or the ‘Burns Day Storm’ of 1990.
“We could see some uprooted trees or other damage from the winds and there’s a chance of some surface water flooding from the rainfall – all of which could lead to some disruption.”
Parents are facing a tough start to the half-term, as holiday plans have been thrown into chaos with hundreds of families likely to stay indoors until any potential danger passes.
Dorset Police has urged motorists to think carefully before setting off on journeys this morning and to prepare for travel disruption.
South West Trains has advised passengers not to travel today. The company will be operating a reduced service with the majority of trains not running until after 8am.
Powerful gales are expected to damage trees, buildings and possibly bring down power lines.
Dorset Fire and Rescue Service reported few weather-related incidents during the weekend, but they are braced for significant disruption today.
Warnings predicted 20-40mm of rain could fall in just six to nine hours.
Strong winds have already hit the county over the weekend, with a tree coming down in Branksome Park, Poole, on Saturday.
Strong gusts also felled a tree alongside the A31 in the New Forest yesterday afternoon.
Police were forced to close one lane of the dual carriageway at the Rufus Stone turn off, around 3.30pm, to enable it to be safely removed.
Condor Ferries has cancelled all sailings from Poole and Weymouth until the weather subsides.
A large tree narrowly missed smashing into parked cars after coming down in strong winds in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The 50ft pine, which ended up blocking Chester Road, Branksome Park, Poole, came within inches of trashing a Mercedes SLK car.
Resident Victoria Edwards told the Daily Echo: “We were woken by a really loud noise about 3.50am in the morning. To start with we thought someone had crashed a car outside our house.
“We live opposite Branksome Woods, where you have these really tall pine trees, probably about 70ft tall.
“One of them had just come straight over the road and missed my friend’s car by about 20cm. It was really quite dramatic.”
Borough of Poole workers arrived on the scene at 8am on Saturday to remove the tree.
Mrs Edwards, a mother-of-two, added: “It was just so loud, and quite scary. There’s a lot of other trees there and with the weather we could be getting, I’m going to be watching where I park my car over the next couple of days.”
The Mercedes is owned by a friend who was visiting Mrs Edwards and her family.
“She came down last night,” said Mrs Edwards “She parked her car outside our house, and now there’s a giant tree a few feet from it.”
Meanwhile, an advertising hoarding was blown on to a van near Marks & Spencer, Westbourne, yesterday afternoon, as wind speeds started to strengthen.
THE damaging winds are forecast to ease throughout this morning – but they will still remain strong and may cause problems.
Rain showers should subside around 8am but then return, with some heavy downpours, from 1pm until at least 6pm.
Meanwhile, today’s temperature should be around 14C.
Tomorrow’s weather remains unsettled across the conurbation, but there should be some sunshine with intermittent blustery showers.
The Met Office forecast for Wednesday is for a drier and brighter day, with daytime temperatures tipping 14C.
Further rain and strengthening winds – although nowhere near the strength of Monday’s gusts –will build towards the end of the week.
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