A man has been killed by a falling tree as Storm Arwen brought severe high winds, rain and snow to the UK.
The man died after his car was hit by the tree in Antrim, Northern Ireland, on Friday.
Elsewhere, motorists in areas which fell under the Met Office’s red weather warning were told they “should not travel under any circumstances” by a senior police officer.
The Met Office issued the rare warning for wind from 3pm on Friday to 2am on Saturday as Storm Arwen arrived to batter the country, with gusts forecast to be as high as 90mph and waves as high as 10 metres.
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The extreme weather has thrown Scotland’s public transport network into chaos as trains and ferry services have been cancelled for safety reasons.
Karl Grewar, head of integrated control at Network Rail Scotland, said: “Storm Arwen is bringing wind speeds of up to 90 mph which are currently lashing parts of eastern Scotland it means we have had to reduce speed restrictions and close some lines to trains.”
He said the Aberdeen to Inverness and Aberdeen to Dundee lines have been closed due to trees and debris on the lines.
The east coast line between Edinburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed and the North Berwick line have also been closed due to the weather, but the west coast mainline remains open for cross-border travel.
Mr Grewar said the restrictions have been introduced for safety of passengers and staff, adding the lines will not reopen “until it is safe to do so”.
“We will be doing everything we can to open the lines as soon as we’re able to get people moving,” he said.
CalMac Ferries confirmed multiple services have been cancelled due to the adverse weather.
Travel watchdog Traffic Scotland confirmed a section of the A1 has been closed in East Lothian between Haddington and the Thistly Cross roundabout due to strong winds of up to 84mph forecast for Friday evening. Motorists have been warned to expect delays when travelling in the area.
Superintendent Simon Bradshaw, from Police Scotland’s Road Policing Unit, said motorists in the area “should not travel under any circumstances” and added those in amber and yellow warning zones should “not journey out unless for essential purposes and if you are doing so, to be mindful of the challenging conditions you will face”.
The red warning stretches along the east coast from Middlesbrough to beyond Aberdeen and is the first maximum alert to be issued since Storm Dennis in February 2020.
Grahame Madge, a Met Office spokesman, said the forecaster didn’t “issue red warnings lightly” and warned people to stay away from the affected area.
“People need to recognise, really, that we don’t issue red warnings lightly so, therefore, when we do, we feel that there is a much higher threat of risk,” he said.
“We urge people, obviously, to take action as a result of that and that action in this case is probably don’t go to the coast.”
The warning, which is the highest the Met Office issues, means the impact is likely to be severe with the potential for damage to buildings and homes, with roofs blown off and power lines brought down.
The alert also warns people in the zone of the potential of “roads, bridges, and railway lines closed, with delays and cancellations to bus, train, ferry services and flights”, and Rod Dennis, of RAC Breakdown, warned of the chance of major disruption and urged motorists to “avoid driving if at all possible”.
“Red warnings from the Met Office are relatively rare and are the strongest possible signal to drivers not to set out in the first place unless absolutely necessary,” he said.
Most of the UK is blanketed by weather warnings as the storm approaches, with those set to be in force on Saturday.
Mr Dennis said: “Drivers in those parts of the UK covered by amber weather warnings should also consider postponing their planned trips until the storm passes.
“As well as making driving much more challenging, strong winds cause an increased risk of trees and power lines falling. Add snow into the equation and the risks increase significantly.”
Temperatures are set to fall with the storm, too, and the Met Office has warned the north east of England, north west of England, Yorkshire, West Midlands and the East Midlands will experience cold weather from Friday to Monday.
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The decision by the Met Office to issue a rare red weather warning for strong winds signals a potentially damaging and dangerous risk to life in some areas of Scotland.
“People in these affected areas should not travel under any circumstances, including motorists.”
He added: “The Scottish Government is in close contact with local authorities and the emergency services to ensure people in the affected areas receive the latest information, advice and support where needed.”
The UK Health Security Agency has issued a cold weather alert and Will Land, head of civil contingencies at the forecaster, said: “The UK will see temperatures drop to below average in the coming days, as cold air is drawn in from the north.
“This is coupled with the strong winds associated with Storm Arwen, which means it will feel especially cold in the wind.
“Areas in the north will see temperatures below freezing overnight, with daytime maximum temperatures only getting into the low single figures.
“It’s important to note that strong wind speeds, in excess of 65mph in exposed locations, will exacerbate the cold temperatures we’ll be seeing over the weekend.”
A Covid-19 pop-up vaccination clinic which was due to open in Middlesbrough on Sunday during a Christmas parade and lights switch-on event has been cancelled due to the weather forecast.
Middlesbrough Council said the cancellation of the walk-in clinic in Centre Square was for health and safety reasons.