Millions of people experienced severe disruption as record-breaking winds swept in with Storm Eunice, causing huge structural damage, transport chaos, widespread power cuts and forcing tens of thousands of workers and pupils to remain at home.
The Met Office said a wind speed of up to 122 miles an hour was recorded at the Needles on the Isle of Wight on Friday, provisionally the highest ever in England.
A council employee was killed by a falling tree in County Wexford, south-east Ireland, as he worked during the storm, while a person sustained serious injuries when they were struck by falling debris in Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire.
Thames Valley police tweeted: “A member of the public have [sic] been struck by falling debris from a roof. They have been taken to hospital with serious injuries.”
The London ambulance service said two people were injured in separate incidents potentially linked to Storm Eunice.
A man was taken to hospital after being struck by falling debris in Waterloo, while another is receiving treatment after being struck by a tree in Streatham, south London, shortly before 11am.
Buildings ranging from the lifeboat station at Sennen on the western tip of Cornwall to the Millennium Dome in London sustained damage and both Severn bridges in south Wales were shut for the first time because of wind.
A beloved tree on a square in Bude, north Cornwall, crashed to the ground and many hundreds more across the south of England and south Wales fell, blocking roads and bringing down power lines. The top of a church spire in Wells, Somerset, was toppled by gusts. Snow also brought disruption to Scotland, with reports of about 150 schools closed.
The UK government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee will hold a meeting on Friday afternoon to discuss the response to Storm Eunice. Boris Johnson has advised people to follow safety advice, and the army standing by.
Two Met Office’s red weather warnings, affecting 20 million people, were in place for the south-west of England, south Wales, London and large parts of south-east England.
Before Friday, the strongest gust recorded at a low-level location in England was 118mph at Gwennap Head in Cornwall on December 15 1979. The peak wind speed reached during the great storm of 15-16 October 1987 was 115mph.
Cornwall and south Wales bore the brunt of the storm early on Friday. Devon and Cornwall police sent officers to Sennen Cove, near Penzance, where the roof of the lifeboat station had come off and was resting on power cables.
The Millennium Dome was badly damaged on Friday morning as the wind ripped off panels. A witness, Mala Sharma, watched as “more and more parts are getting ripped off”. She said the damage “started off with a patch” but then a chunk of the roof was ripped off.
The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said: “I urge all Londoners to stay at home, do not take risks, and do not travel unless it is absolutely essential.”
Eunice brought many transport services to a standstill. Trains in many places, including the whole of Wales, were cancelled, with 50mph speed restrictions elsewhere in Britain. Services into London stations including Waterloo and later Euston were entirely suspended for parts of the day.
With police and motoring organisations warning drivers to stay home, the Severn crossings into Wales were closed, along with the Humber and Dartford Bridge crossings. Roads, including a motorway, were blocked by fallen trees.
Ferry services across the Channel and Irish Sea were suspended as the storm whipped up high waves. Hundreds of flights were cancelled by British Airways and others, and some arrivals were diverted or took several attempts to land at Heathrow and Gatwick airports in high winds.
Western Power Distribution, which serves homes in Wales, the Midlands and the south-west of England, said about 85,000 customers had lost power.
The Environment Agency issued 10 severe flood warnings – eight along the Severn and two along the Wye – meaning there was a danger to life, as well as dozens of flood warnings and more than 100 flood alerts. However, fears that high tides could lead to widespread flooding seemed unfounded.
Those hoping to hunker down with a takeaway during the storm may be disappointed. Deliveroo, JustEat and UberEats said they had paused deliveries in affected areas, including London, Wales and parts of the south-east and west, owing to fears for the safety of their riders.
More windy weather on Saturday could affect cleanup efforts in the aftermath of Storm Eunice, the Met Office said. “The winds themselves could cause minor disruption but given the expected impact from Storm Eunice on Friday, these conditions on Saturday may hamper any clear-up operations.”