Storm Arwen: two people killed after winds of almost 100mph hit UK

Two people have died after being hit by falling trees as Storm Arwen brought winds of almost 100mph to parts of the UK overnight.

A headteacher in Northern Ireland died after a tree fell on his car, and another man was hit by a falling tree in Cumbria.

Tens of thousands of homes have been left without power as the storm lashed electricity lines and caused major travel disruption across the country.

High winds, rain and snow brought “damaging gusts” across a wide swathe of the UK overnight, according to the Met Office.

The forecaster said on Saturday that the rare red warning for Storm Arwen had expired, but people were still being urged to stay indoors and avoid driving, where possible.

Further warnings were issued for wind, snow and ice across the UK on Saturday, and police said conditions on a number of roads were hazardous because of falling trees, high winds and snow.

Yellow warnings for wind are in place across most of England and Wales, and eastern parts of Northern Ireland, and are expected to last until 6pm.

The Met Office said a wind speed of 98mph (158kmh) was recorded in Brizlee Wood, Northumberland, on Friday.

In Orlock Head, County Down, gusts of 87mph were recorded, and 78mph in Inverbervie, Kincardineshire, in Scotland.

The man who died when a falling tree hit his car in County Antrim was named locally as Francis Lagan, the principal of St Mary’s primary school in Maghera.

Police in Cumbria said a man from Lancaster was killed after a tree fell on him in Ambleside on Friday evening.

About 80,000 homes in Scotland were affected by power cuts, mainly in Aberdeenshire, Angus, Perthshire and the Moray coast. There were also some outages in Northern Ireland.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) said on Friday night that 80,000 customers were off supply, after restoring power to more than 30,000 homes.

Mark Rough, director of customer operations at SSEN, said: “Storm Arwen has brought some of the most severe and challenging weather we have experienced in recent years, resulting in significant disruption across the north of Scotland.

“Despite detailed preparations, the prolonged and severe nature of the weather front has hampered efforts to restore supplies, with the high winds expected to continue until the early hours of the morning.

“We therefore expect many customers to remain without power into tomorrow [Saturday], particularly in the Aberdeenshire area.”

In the north-east of England, 112,000 homes were left without power, with Northumberland, County Durham and Tyne and Wear the worst-hit.

Fallen masonry on a car in Roker, Sunderland. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

Northern Powergrid said that homes affected would likely remain without electricity “well into Saturday”, as weather conditions were making it impossible to safely carry out repair works.

Its major incident manager, Rod Gardner, said: “Storm Arwen has already caused significant disruption to parts of our network and the storm force winds, which are continuing to batter our region, are not expected to ease until later today.

“The storm is still ongoing and our engineers are doing everything possible to assess the scale of the damage and extensive repairs required.

“We have all our resources in place and our priority is to deal with emergency situations, support our customers and ensure our people can work safely as soon as the conditions allow.”

Electricity North West said it was responding to a high number of power cuts, with thousands of properties in Cumbria and Lancashire affected.

More than 13,000 homes were left without electricity in Wales, as wind speeds of up to 81mph were recorded at Aberporth, Ceredigion.

Train services across the country have been disrupted as a result of the storm damage and high winds.

ScotRail warned passengers to expect “major disruption” for most of Saturday, with people advised not to travel given the weather warnings in place.

Transport for Wales said it had suspended train services because of “significant damage caused overnight by Storm Arwen … with multiple fallen trees and debris blocking lines”.

It said it was working with Network Rail “to get services back up and running as quickly as possible”.

“Numerous roads are also inaccessible and closed due to fallen trees and flying debris, making replacement road transport options difficult,” it said.

Dozens of crashes were reported by police agencies across the UK, and many roads were closed as a result of fallen trees, snow or ice.

More than 120 lorries were stranded for hours in heavy snow in Greater Manchester as conditions rapidly deteriorated overnight.

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