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Emergency services issue warning ahead of worst storm for 25 years
6:03pm Saturday 26th October 2013 in News
THE worst storm in more than 25 years is closing in on the South coast tonight.
The giant weather front is just hours away from the British Isles and is set to batter the region with hurricane force winds of up to 80mph and torrential rain.
Today emergency services and weather experts issued warnings to homeowners ahead of the storm hitting the county tomorrow night causing widespread destruction and flooding.
It is brewing in the Atlantic and is expected to break land before midnight, growing in intensity in the early hours of Monday morning and causing chaos ahead of the rush hour.
It brings back chilling reminders of the Great Storm of October 1987 when 115mph winds battered the country.
The Met Office says gale force gusts could bring down trees and cause structural damage, leading to power cuts and transport disruption on Monday morning.
The Environment Agency has warned of flooding across most the region with 25mm of rain expected to fall in just six hours.
It is called St Jude the patron saint of lost causes whose feast date it is on Monday.
Atlantic storms of this type usually develop further west across the ocean, losing strength by the time they reach the UK and Ireland.
But this is expected to appear much closer to land, potentially moving across the country while in its most powerful phase.
Hampshire County Council has warned that trees are still in leaf and are at an increased likelihood of falling, while leaves on the ground may block gullies and outflows, causing flooding.
Drivers have been urged to park their vehicles in a garage or if this is not possible move them away from buildings, trees, walls and fences.
Contingency plans have already been drawn up, with highways emergency crews put on standby ready to deal with fallen branches and blocked drains.
Non-emergency flooding on Hampshire highways can be reported by calling 0845 603 5633 during office hours.
Darron Burness, head of the AA's flood rescue team, said: ''If the predicted storm strikes, the timing couldn't really be worse, potentially causing significant travel disruption on Monday morning, which is one of the busiest times on the roads.
''Strong wind and torrential rain is an unpredictable and hazardous combination, which can be quite overwhelming when you're driving.
''There's likely to be tree and other debris on the roads as well potential flooding, so it's very important to keep your speed down and drive with great care, particularly on country roads early on Monday morning when it's still dark.''
Steve Willington, chief forecaster at the Met Office said: “''This is a developing situation and we'd advise people to stay up to date with our forecasts and warnings over the weekend, and be prepared to change their plans if necessary.
"We'll continue to work closely with authorities and emergency services to ensure they are aware of the expected conditions.''
Home insurers were bracing themselves for the prospect of a high number of storm damage claims.
Claire Foster of Direct Line said: ''We take the current severe weather and flood warnings extremely seriously and have put our emergency action plans into place.
"We have people on the ground and on the phones ready to help customers make a claim. Our priority is reassuring householders with Direct Line home insurance policies and getting them back in their home as quickly as possible.''
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