Britain battered by hurricane-strength winds

Brighton, ENGLAND — Southern Britain was battered Monday by a powerful storm with hurricane-force winds that caused widespread delays on the nation's roads and trains, and threatened severe disruptions to airports.

The Met Office said that winds reached 99 mph near the Isle of Wight at around 6:00 a.m. local time and the Environment Agency issued dozens of flood alerts for a large swathe of England and Wales.

Exposed coastlines in Cornwall, Devon, East Sussex, Hampshire and Kent experienced particularly rough conditions with reports of hundreds of downed trees. Thousand of homes — as many as 220,000, reports said — were without power across the southern, coastal parts of the country Monday.

Police said one teenager was killed after a tree fell on a home in Kent and a Hertfordshire man in his 50s was killed when a tree fell on a car, but there were few other reports of injuries. The high winds and heavy rains forced the cancellation of at least 130 flights at Heathrow airport and authorities urged the public to take precautions and "be prepared."

Ahead of the storm's landfall late Sunday night a 14-year-old boy was feared drowned after being swept out to sea near the town of Newhaven, in West Sussex.

Local media have dubbed the storm — one of the most severe to hit the British Isles in decades — "St. Jude" after the patron saint of lost causes. The saint is traditionally celebrated on Oct. 28.

However, for many at London's Victoria train station, a major hub for the capital's rush-hour commuters, the severe weather did little more than cause some relatively mild inconvenience.

"I'll be standing here for a while," engineer David Simpson, 47, from Kent, said.

Trains departing Victoria were running several hours late during the Monday morning rush-hour, but Simpson said that compared to the Great Storm of 1987 — when at least 22 people were killed as gale-force winds slammed the English Channel — the weather "is nothing."

Another commuter, Karishma Thaladi, 24, summed up the delays as "quite bad." Thaladi was grateful that her employer, a local bank, was flexible with start times.

Away from Victoria, there were fewer taxis on the streets of London than there would normally be as the working week got underway and Transport for London delayed its overground services inside the capital until 9 a.m. local time.

Forecasters said that the storm would peak by mid-morning as it moved in a north-east direction out over the North Sea.

By 9 a.m. in Brighton, a beach town about an hour south of London, the sun was already out.

Kim Protheroe, a features editor for Brighton's The Argus newspaper, said, "Ironically, I had the easiest journey to work ... I've had for months. I was practically the only car (on the road) ... and simply sailed through."

Contributing: Stephanie Haven reported from London


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