Storm Babet will hit Britain today after the Met Office issued an amber warning for torrential rain and 80mph gale force winds – as extreme weather sparks travel chaos with trains being cancelled.
The UK’s second named storm of the season will bring more than a month’s worth of rain and 70mph winds. The most severe conditions will hit eastern Scotland where a 36-hour amber warning will be in place from 6am on Thursday until 6pm on Friday.
Separate yellow warnings have been put in place for Northern Ireland from 2pm on Wednesday until 10am on Thursday, and across vast swathes of Scotland and northern and eastern England from 6am on Thursday to 6am on Saturday.
As the storm approaches, forecasters said gale-force gusts could occur along the coasts of Wales and South West England, as well as to the west of higher ground areas such as Dartmoor in southern Devon and Eryri in North West Wales.
Rail operators cancelled trains and considered speed restrictions during the morning rush hour yesterday – as the Met Office issued an amber alert.
member of the public gets caught by a wave on the shoreline after a morning swim in rough seas at Gyllyngvase Beach as strong winds arrive on the coastline on Tuesday in Falmouth, Cornwall
Commuters struggle with their hair during windy weather on London Bridge in Central London on Tuesday
Fields around Mepal in Cambridgeshire flooded after the New Bedford River burst its banks overnight with more flooding expected with the arrival of Storm Babet on Wednesday
Strong waves strike Folkestone’s Lighthouse in Kent on Tuesday ahead of Storm Babet’s arrival
Further travel disruption is expected across the UK – with National Rail saying that poor weather may affect journeys in Scotland and parts of England until Saturday.
On the Isle of Wight there were no trains at Ryde Pier Head on Tuesday due to the weather, with a replacement bus in place between the station and nearby Ryde Esplanade.
Network Rail said its teams were concerned by the high risk of flooding and strong winds potentially uprooting trees, with weather specialists in its control room considering whether any speed restrictions will be required in Scotland this week.
Babet – which comes three weeks after 84mph Storm Agnes hit the UK – is forecast to cause ‘a very nasty spell of weather’, and Scotland is likely to bear the brunt of it.
WEDNESDAY: Four days of rain warnings start with one that comes into force tomorrow
THURSDAY: This is when the impact based on the number of warnings in place will be greatest
FRIDAY: This is the same as Thursday, apart from the Northern Ireland warning which ends
SATURDAY: Rain warnings will continue to cover much of England and Scotland on Saturday
The Met Office’s second named storm of the season will bring up to 200mm (8in) of rain. This graphic shows total rainfall over the course of the warnings from tomorrow until Saturday
A Nasa satellite image released today shows Storm Babet approaching Europe last night
Forecasters have warned of dangerous driving conditions and ‘fast-flowing and deep floodwater’ that could pose a danger to life.
The warnings for rain and wind cover much of Scotland, eastern Northern Ireland, the North East of England, Yorkshire, the East Midlands and East Anglia.
Some of these alerts – which also warn of power cuts and the possible collapse of buildings due to flooding – could be upgraded to amber or even red over the coming days.
A red warning is issued only when dangerous weather is forecast and it is ‘very likely there will be a risk to life’.
People are then advised to avoid travelling where possible and to take action to keep safe.
Red warnings are rare in the UK, with only a handful of recent examples including in February 2022 for Storm Eunice, which was the most damaging storm to hit England and Wales since February 2014.
Others were issued for Storm Arwen on north-eastern coasts in November 2021 and Storm Dennis in parts of South Wales in February 2020.
During Storm Babet, as much as 150mm (6in) to 200mm (8in) of rain is expected to fall on central and eastern areas of Scotland and there is a possibility of 70mph gale-force winds affecting northern parts of the UK, forecasters warned.
Scotland typically receives 168mm (6.6in) of rainfall in October, but the country will receive more than this amount in the span of a few days.
Waves crash against the shoreline at Portland Bill in Dorset today ahead of Storm Babet
A swimmer runs out of the sea this morning at Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth, Cornwall
A woman’s hair is blown up in the high wind as she crosses London Bridge this morning
Choppy waves on a blustery day by the coast at Hengistbury Head in Dorset this morning
A swimmer makes their way into the sea today at Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth, Cornwall
Fields in Mepal, Cambridgeshire, are flooded today after the New Bedford River burst its banks
Waves crash against the shoreline at Portland Bill in Dorset today ahead of Storm Babet
Parts of England can expect more than 100mm (4in) of rainfall during the week with some isolated areas facing up to 150mm (6in).
Met Office weather warnings this week
- 2pm Wednesday – 10am Thursday: Northern Ireland
- 6am Thursday – 6am Saturday: Eastern England, Northern England and Southern Scotland
- 6am Thursday – 6pm Friday: Eastern Scotland
- 6am Thursday – 12pm Friday: Central and Northern Scotland
Downpours may cause ‘fast-flowing and deep floodwater’ that could pose a ‘danger to life’ and the transport network could suffer major disruption.
There is also a chance of essential services like gas, water and mobile phone signals being disrupted. The east coast of Scotland could also be battered by huge waves.
The heaviest rain is expected in eastern areas of Scotland, with the ground already saturated in many areas after recent flooding.
A month’s worth of rain fell in a 24-hour period from October 7 to 8 in Scotland, triggering landslides and trapping drivers.
Communities in Aviemore, Highlands, Argyll and Bute, and Perthshire were badly impacted October, with weather so bad it was compared to the Beast from the East in 2018.
Ten motorists were airlifted to safety after 2,000 tons of debris swept across the A83, and large parts of the Scottish rail network were also shut down as lines were turned into rivers.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), working with the Met Office, will issue flood alerts and warnings ahead of the latest storm sweeping in.
Forecasters say people should not be fooled by a brief respite of some dry weather expected on Thursday before 70mph winds arrive.
A 36-hour amber warning has been activated from 6am on Thursday until 6pm on Friday
Before the amber alert was issued yesterday, Met Office meteorologist Craig Snell said: ‘We are expecting some exceptionally wet weather in Scotland later in the week.
How Babet was named after a Dutch woman born during a gale
Storm Babet was named after a woman from the Netherlands who said she had been born during a gale.
The Met Office compiles its annual list of storm names in conjunction with the Dutch and Irish weather services.
The Dutch weather service organised an open day last year, inviting visitors to submit suggestions for names – and Babet was among those involved, reported the Daily Telegraph.
Further down the list is Storm Elin, which was named after a visitor who said they had a ‘tempestuous granddaughter’ with the same name.
‘We are on yellow warnings at the moment but that may well change. I would not be surprised if we saw an amber warning and it’s not out of the bounds of possibility that it could go further than that. We could be seeing some really nasty pictures of flooding.’
David Morgan, flood duty manager for Sepa, said: ‘Storm Babet will bring heavy rain and high winds across Scotland from Wednesday evening, starting in the South-West before moving across to the North-East through Thursday and into the weekend.
‘Flood alerts and warnings will be issued as required, and we continue to work with the Met Office to monitor the situation 24/7.
‘Impacts from surface water and rivers are likely, and with catchments saturated from recent heavy rain and flooding, we’re urging people to be prepared for potential flooding.
‘There is also concern that surface water flooding may be exacerbated by debris blocking drainage, culverts, etc as a result of the high winds.
‘If you live or work in an area that could be affected, consider any steps you need to take now to be prepared and stay safe, and to take extra care if you need to travel.
Met Office spokesman Stephen Dixon said: ‘A disruptive period of weather is on the way.
‘There’s some high totals (of rain) which have the potential to disrupt travel plans… possibility of power cuts as well as the obvious risk of flooding.
‘As you look at Wednesday, the first pulse of rain is looking to particularly influence Northern Ireland, Wales and the southwest of England, and into Thursday.
Met Office full storm name list for 2023/24
‘But it’s as you move from Thursday and into the week that shift very much focuses more towards central and eastern Scotland, but also some central and eastern areas of England as well.’
He added that further weather warnings are likely to be announced by the Met Office in the coming days.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has urged the public to exercise ‘extreme caution’, particularly along exposed cliffs, seafronts and piers.
Sam Hughes, the charity’s water safety partner, said: ‘The forecasted strong winds along with heavy rain are likely to cause dangerous conditions for those visiting the coast around the UK and Ireland.
‘The RNLI advises staying a safe distance away from the water and cliff edges as the conditions could knock you off your feet or wash you into the sea. It is not worth risking your life.
‘If you see someone else in danger in the water, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard if by the coast, or the fire service if inland. If you have something that floats that they can hold on to, throw it to them. Don’t go in the water yourself – you may end up in difficulty too.’
Met Office chief meteorologist Steven Keates said: ‘Heavy and persistent rain will fall onto already saturated ground bringing a risk of flooding.
‘It is important to stay up to date with warnings from your local flood warning agency as well as the local authorities.
‘For Scotland, this rain will be fairly heavy and persistent through much of the second half of the week and into the early part of the weekend.
The sun rises across the marshes of Christchurch and Mudeford Sandspit in Dorset today
Sunrise at Avon Beach in Dorset today ahead of the arrival of Storm Babet later on
The sun rises on a cold morning over the quay and River Stour at Christchurch in Dorset today
Boats in the quay at Christchurch in Dorset this morning ahead of the arrival of Storm Babet
A beautiful sunrise at Christchurch in Dorset this morning before the storm sweeps in
‘As well as heavy rain, Storm Babet will bring some very strong winds and large waves near some eastern coasts too.
‘Gusts in excess of 60mph are possible in eastern and northern Scotland from Thursday. It is likely Met Office warnings will be updated through the week.’
It comes after southern England experienced its first autumn frost of the year yesterday as temperatures plummeted below zero.
Charlwood in Surrey was the chilliest place in England with -1.4C (29F), while the cold snap was also felt in Benson in Oxfordshire, Farnborough in Hampshire and Lakenheath in Suffolk, where the mercury fell to -1C (30F).
Gatwick and Stansted airports reported readings of 0C (32F), while temperatures in the Scottish Highlands fell to -2.2C (28F).
As many as 35 weather stations reported temperatures below freezing last night, the Met Office said. The last such widespread frost was 172 days ago on April 27.
The RAC was fearing an estimated 20 per cent spike in callouts yesterday on what it dubbed ‘Flat Battery Monday’ as car motors were more likely to fail due to the freezing night.
In the Republic of Ireland, Met Éireann has issued orange weather warnings for Cork and Waterford as spells of heavy rain and blustery winds were expected to arrive this morning.
The Met Éireann warning has been put in place from 6am on Tuesday until 1pm on Wednesday. The forecaster told residents to expect considerable rainfall combined with ‘blustery east to southeast winds at times’.
Storm Babet could cause poor visibility, localised flooding, difficult driving conditions and possible wave overtopping at high tide, the forecaster said.
Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Clare, Kilkenny and Wexford were given a yellow rain warning that came into effect at 6am on Tuesday.
A yellow rain warning for Connacht is set in place until 6pm on Wednesday, while one for Antrim, Armagh and Down will run from 2pm on Wednesday until 10am on Thursday.