LONDON – Driving rains and high winds lashed the United Kingdom on Sunday evening, as officials warned that the storm forecasters are calling one of the worst in years will cause widespread disruptions for early-morning commuters.
Officials said a 14-year-old boy is feared dead after being swept out to sea while apparently playing in the surf in southern England.
With winds expected to pick up through the night and into the early hours today, railways and airports canceled many services pre-emptively.
Prime Minister David Cameron told government agencies to ensure that contingency plans were in place for transportation, schools and power supplies during the storm, which could have gusts stronger than 80 mph – akin to those in hurricanes.
Britain does not get hurricanes due to its geographic location.
A National Football League game in London between the San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening went on as planned, but elsewhere contingency planning and cancellations were put into effect.
Heathrow Airport canceled at least 60 flights ahead of the storm’s arrival in full force, warning travelers to be prepared for disruptions. Rail networks canceled many trains pre-emptively up through this morning, citing the high risk of trees and other debris expected to fall on train lines.
Eurostar said it would not be able to run any cross-Channel rail services until 7 a.m. today to allow for train lines to be inspected.
Once the so-called St. Jude storm – named after the patron saint of lost causes – passes through Britain, it is expected to head out over the North Sea and hit parts of the Nordic countries this afternoon.
The Danish Meteorological Institute issued a warning, saying winds of hurricane strength are expected in some parts of Denmark and heightened water levels in western Jutland near the town Esbjerg.
The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute also issued a warning, saying it expects hurricane-strength winds to hit southern and western Sweden this evening, potentially causing damage and travel disruptions. It said the stormy weather is expected to subside as it moves north on Tuesday and Wednesday.