Storm Barra, dubbed a “weather bomb” because of its powerful winds, brought flash floods and transport chaos across parts of Britain on Wednesday as it ripped through the west of the country.
Weather warnings for snow and hail, including warnings to expect 10cm of snow in rural parts of Scotland and 12cm in some parts of northern England, were issued for Scotland and northern England and the east of England.
Flood warnings were issued across the whole country. And many schools were closed in places that were typically not normally affected.
At present, the Met Office forecasters are not including the current weather system in their forecast for the rest of the week, but say there is a risk of further Arctic gales on Thursday.
The storm, nicknamed the “weather bomb”, has caused blizzards and lashed the Thames with several large waves.
A Met Office spokesman, Luke Miall, said the latest weather “bomb” of a low pressure system had torn across the centre of the Atlantic overnight on Tuesday and after “two or three days of wind and rain” the winds in Britain had suddenly “exploded”.
Police and weather forecasters also issued warnings over flooding as flash floods swept homes and businesses along the River Tees in Middlesbrough. Gusts were recorded at 68mph.
In Cumbria, firefighters and mountain rescue teams used fire engines to reach stranded drivers in high winds. Flooding had brought river levels to their highest level in more than 40 years.
Two homes at Stowlee Top near Whitehaven were flooded, and although the peak had receded from about 1.5m (5ft) to about 1m, the impact of high tides had set off flooding at Gladstone Camp Road. Floods also caused power cuts to at least 9,400 customers.
Met Office meteorologist Alan Jesson said winds had been recorded up to 80mph and said temperatures would be low – around 17C in the east.
“We have had lots of lightning strikes and some torrential downpours and it’s been much wetter across north-west and north-east England and Northern Ireland and areas like Glasgow and Edinburgh,” he said.
“What we’ve had is a very active low-pressure system that has been moving up the Atlantic. It’s not the sort of thing that people expect but this sort of low has very severe winds and has brought very rough seas.”
He said the winds would continue on Thursday, although they would start to ease before Tuesday’s high tides. There was a chance of further severe flooding in Cumbria and north-west England, he said.
“The River Tees has reached a record high in Middlesbrough, and there are also flooding worries in Carlisle and in Gorton,” Jesson said.
Rivers were also running high in parts of London and south-east England, which is still recovering from earlier heavy rain.
“The high tide this morning reached 7m and we expect this to peak this afternoon at about 7.5m. Rivers are still running high, we’ve got some serious flooding there.
“We are looking at droughts and concerns for crops but we haven’t had any snow or water this year.”
The Met Office has said the storm will bring unsettled weather to the UK through the weekend and into next week. There are warnings to expect blizzards in Scotland on Thursday, followed by heavy rain in north-west England and in the south.
A spokesman for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency said: “Flood defences were put in place on the Tees in preparation for severe weather, but high tides have set off flooding at Gladstone Camp Road in Craven Barracks at Stowlee top and around Cockburn water treatment works at nearby Goodle.”
Teesside rivermouth rescue team used fire engines to save people from high waves on Teesbyard, in Middlesbrough.
Helen Roberts, a spokeswoman for the forecasters, said the weather was expected to ease on Thursday, with showers clearing in the south-east and parts of southern England, before the return of the Arctic winds.
Ands Obrey, a forecaster for MeteoGroup, said the storm – which began in Scotland on Tuesday and crossed the north of England and into Scotland on Wednesday – was expected to ease off on Thursday.