Published on 3 Jan 2012 Sections ,

Two killed as winter storm batters UK

A van driver is killed by a falling oak tree in Kent as high winds cause power cuts and force ports and bridges to close. A sailor has also died after his ship was struck by a large wave.

The van driver, who was in his fifties and from Tonbridge, died after his vehicle was crushed by an oak tree at Tunbridge Wells in Kent and was pronounced dead at the scene on Tuesday lunchtime.

His vehicle is believed to have been stationary at the time, Kent Police said. A male passenger in the vehicle is understood to have escaped unharmed.

Meanwhile another man aboard a tanker in the English Channel has died in hospital after the ship was struck by a large wave.

Severe weather warnings have been issued for many regions across the UK, with powerful gusts causing widespread travel disruption.

Scotland is bearing the brunt of much of the stormy weather, with more than 60,000 households hit by a power cut.

In Northern Ireland, 105mph winds have been recorded at Malin Head in County Donegal.

Wales has seen 90mph winds, with Aberdaron in the north of the country recording 93mph gusts earlier.

Liam Dutton, Weather Presenter for Channel 4 News, said an “active storm” has brought heavy rain, mountain snow and severe gales.

“Damaging gusts of wind will continue to cause problems in Scotland and the far northeast of England for a time this afternoon, but the winds will gradually ease this evening.

“Following the heavy rain, there’ll be plenty of showers across northwestern parts of the UK, which will be wintry across the hills and mountains. Winds will remain brisk, but not strong at they were during Tuesday morning.”


The Met Office issued its highest-possible “red” warning for storm-force winds across central and southern Scotland this morning. Forecasters said winds of between 85mph and 97mph were recorded in Scotland’s central belt, including Glasgow and Edinburgh. The wind warning has since been reduced to an amber alert.

The severe weather forced the closure of the country’s main road and rail bridges, saw dozens of flights cancelled and caused train services to be suspended.

Buses replaced many trains on both the west and east coasts. East Coast mainline trains between London and Scotland are unlikely to travel north of Newcastle for the rest of Tuesday. East Coast trains urged anyone wanting to head further north today not to travel. Across central Scotland, rail services were suspended between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Waverley station was closed by Network Rail. The Forth and Tay rail bridges were also shut and all services from Glasgow Central’s mainline platforms were suspended.

Edinburgh airport has lifted restrictions on incoming flights, but departures are still subject to disruption. At Glasgow airport, 35 flights were cancelled.

Strathclyde Police are urging travellers not to drive unless absolutely necessary and if they do, to ensure they pack warm clothing, have sufficient fuel and charge their mobile phones. Travellers can check for the latest transport advice.

Keep track of the latest weather in your region on the Channel 4 Weather website

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the ferry crossing from Larne across the Irish Sea to Cairnryan has been suspended and the Northern Ireland Electricity board has warned that fallen branches and trees could cause power cuts. They have drafted in hundreds of extra engineers to respond to blackouts.

The bad weather has also forced delays upon the repairs of a damaged oil tanker in Belfast Lough. The Genmar Companion is carrying 54,000 tonnes of oil and was due to transfer it to another vessel after it suffered a crack in its upperdeck early in December. That process has now been delayed, but officials said there was no risk to the environment and the process would begin again when the weather calms.

Gales of up to 90mph uprooted trees and left 10,000 properties in Northern Ireland without electricity. Up to 2,000 homes across Cumbria were without power overnight.


In the south west of England the Environment Agency has issued “yellow” flood alerts on 21 rivers from Cornwall to Wiltshire.

The Tamar Bridge which spans the river between Devon and Cornwall was closed to high sided vehicles and First Great Western rail services between Truro and Penzance have reported obstructions blocking “all lines”.

Channel crossings from Dover to Calais have also been hit. The Port of Dover was closed due to high winds of Force 11 strength in the Channel, but it reopened this afternoon.

P&O Ferries said it had had to suspend sailings between Dover and Calais and that at least one UK-bound vessel which had set off from France was unable to dock at Dover and was waiting for an improvement in the weather. Later, two P&O Ferries’ vessels – Pride of Calais and Pride of Kent – were able to dock at the Kent port after extra-long crossings.

Click on the image above to see a photo gallery of the winter storms hitting the UK.