Commuters face travel chaos on Monday as Storm Isha brings rail services to a standstill across the UK.
Rush-hour trains have been cancelled until midday in some areas as 90mph winds batter the British Isles, with warnings for the public to be on “tornado watch”.
The Met Office said the winds could be deadly, with danger-to-life weather warnings set to remain in place until at least Wednesday. Forecasters said the scale of the storm was rare and that “everybody” in the country will be affected, with disruption to rail, road and air services threatening to continue through the week and power cuts expected.
On Sunday evening, Sellafield nuclear power station suspended operations as severe weather hit Cumbria. And more than 45,000 homes in Northern Ireland were without power, according to Northern Ireland Electricity.
Met Office meteorologist Tom Morgan said: “We have a wind warning in place across the whole of the UK. It’s pretty unusual for the whole of the country to be under a blanket wind warning.
“There’s the potential for danger-to-life and damaging winds potentially leading to some power cuts in places. Some large waves around coastal regions could bring some debris on to roads and trees could come down.”
The travel misery comes weeks after commuters faced severe disruption over the festive period, with days of widespread train cancellations and delays blamed on flooding and staff shortages.
Rail firms urged customers to stay at home this morning as swathes of routes were cancelled.
On Sunday night, ScotRail suspended all train services from 7pm and said that there would be no services until “later on Monday”, leaving rush-hour commuters stranded.
Avanti West Coast “strongly” advised customers not to travel during peak wind conditions and warned of “reduced speeds on all lines”, while LNER cancelled services north of Edinburgh from 4pm on Sunday until midday on Monday.
Routes operated by South Western Railway have been reduced, while East Midlands Railway said it expected “significant disruption”.
Passengers can expect slower journeys on any trains still running, with Network Rail saying most services would be limited to 50mph as a precautionary measure.
Flights were also cancelled on Sunday night up and down the country, while air traffic bosses warned that more will be axed throughout the week owing to control precautions.
Heathrow Airport said travellers should check with their airlines if flying in the next few days, a caution echoed by a spokesman for AGS Airports, the firm operating many of Scotland’s airports.
A spokesman for British Airways said: “Like other airlines, we have had to make schedule adjustments due to the adverse weather conditions across the UK and Europe caused by Storm Isha.”
Strong winds sweeping in from the Atlantic are expected to hit coastal areas the hardest, with 90mph gusts recorded at Capel Curig in north Wales on Sunday.
Meanwhile, 76mph gusts were recorded in Loftus, North Yorkshire and 75mph winds blasted Brizlee Wood, near Alnwick in Northumberland, and Emley in Huddersfield.
Last night a “tornado watch” zone was issued for Northern Ireland, as well as parts of Scotland and northern England, by the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (Torro).
The Met Office says the weather system is “one of the most violent and dramatic” on the planet. Forecaster Marco Petagna said: “There is a potential that we could see the odd isolated tornado largely tied in with the squally cold front mainly in western parts of the UK on Sunday evening.
“They can cause significant damage but often on a very localised scale. They often don’t tend to last very long.”
Homeowners have been warned to watch out for flying slates and walkers advised to stay away from the coast. The Met Office advised that the safest place to sleep at home would be “anywhere away from glass such as windows and also rooms where there is no chimney stack above”.
Motorists were also urged to be cautious on the roads in windy weather, with RAC Breakdown spokesman Alice Simpson warning: “While high-sided vehicles are most at risk of being blown off course, cars can also be affected when they pass lorries on these roads and are suddenly hit by the full force of the wind on the other side.
“It’s best to keep both hands on the wheel and watch other vehicles very carefully to avoid being caught out by any unexpected changes in direction.”
The RAC said drivers should lower their speeds, leave plenty of extra stopping distance and only go through water which they are sure is shallow enough to pass through safely.