Warning of more storm disruption

Andover Advertiser: A car is crushed under a fallen tree in Hornsey, north London A car is crushed under a fallen tree in Hornsey, north London

Britain faces further disruption today following the most powerful storm to hit Britain in years.

The authorities continue to clear away debris and fallen trees while engineers work to restore power to hundreds of thousands of homes and rail services slowly return to normal.

A 17-year-old girl was among four people killed as hurricane-force winds battered England and Wales, leaving a trail of destruction.

Dubbed St Jude after the patron of lost causes, the storm caused transport disruption on road, rail, air and sea, and power cuts for hundreds of thousands of homes.

National Rail said it was not yet able to say how services will be affected today but urged travellers to check with their train operator, while ferry services from Dover are still delayed because of rough seas.

Up to 166,000 homes across England were still without power last night.

The storm, which is now over Scandinavia, will today be replaced with far lighter winds and rain, but dozens of areas in southern England still remain on flood alert, The Environment Agency said.

Insurers are counting the cost of the storm but say it is too early to tell whether it will compare with the multibillion-pound hits caused by previous severe weather events.

Initial estimates of the level of financial damage wrought are not expected until later this week, the Association of British Insurers said.

During yesterday morning, winds of up to 100mph swept through the South West, South, South East, the Midlands and the East of England after first hitting land in the early hours.

Up to 2.4 inches of rain - half the monthly average - fell in a just few hours during the storm in areas including Hampshire and Devon causing flash floods.

The devastating storm left Bethany Freeman crushed as a 30ft tree fell on the caravans she and her family were living in while renovation work was taking place at their home at Edenbridge in Kent shortly after 7am.

Known as "Gia", she was a "universally respected" sixth-form pupil at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School who "had everything to look forward to", the school's website said.

There were tragic scenes as her driving instructor arrived at her home in Lydens Lane to pick her up without knowing she had died.

"Loving husband" and father-of-three Donal Drohan, 51, originally from Waterford in Ireland, died after his car was hit by a tree at the bridge over the River Colne in Watford.

Mr Drohan, from Harrow, west London, was "in the wrong place at the wrong time" when his car was struck by a falling tree at Lower High Street.

An officer who attended the scene said that a millisecond's difference would have made for "a different story".

The Harrow council worker's family said: "He was the best husband and father anyone could wish for. You couldn't find anyone who had a bad word to say about him."

In Hounslow, west London, three houses were completely destroyed and two more were damaged by an explosion, thought to have been caused by a ruptured gas main.

Officers were called to Bath Road at around 7.30am and at noon they found a man's body at number 47 amid "scenes of devastation".

An hour and a half later, a woman - whom investigators were trying to identify - was found dead at the same property.

Met Office spokeswoman Laura Young warned that the impacts from the storm are still around and urged the public to remain alert.

John Lee, a forecaster for the MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said it was the most powerful storm in years.

"There will no doubt be some disruption still following the damage caused by strong winds and heavy rain, but the weather will be quite different," he said.

"It will be blustery with some showers, especially in the west, but a lot lighter.

"On Friday there is an indication that stormy weather could return, but it's likely to bring heavy rain rather than strong winds."

The Energy Networks Association said 459,000 homes suffered power cuts across England, with 166,000 still disconnected.

The port of Dover in Kent had to be shut, train and Tube services were disrupted, more than 130 flights at Heathrow Airport were cancelled and many roads were impassable due to fallen trees.

Debris falling on to power lines caused a nuclear power station in Kent automatically to close down both its reactors, leaving its own diesel generators to provide power for essential safety systems.

Experts said that, while the gales were relatively weak compared with the Great Storm of 1987, it had shown how much weather predictions have improved compared with 26 years ago.

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