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Gales and rain hit Christmas travel

Mon, 23 Dec 2013

PEOPLE WANTING to get home for Christmas face major disruption as strong gales and torrential rain threaten to cause travel chaos.

Severe weather warnings are in place for much of the UK today until 9am on Christmas Eve, threatening to cause localised flooding across southern England and Wales.

Strong winds are expected across much of the UK, with winds of up to 80mph in coastal areas of southern England, while Scotland is braced for sleet and snow storms and icy roads, the Met Office said.

The AA has warned that road disruption is likely, and advised drivers to avoid any flood water.

The Environment Agency urged people to check its flood forecasts and warned people to keep away from coastal promenades because of wet and windy conditions.

Six flood warnings were in place this morning, along with 73 less serious flood alerts, the majority in southern England.

The worst of the weather is expected to be clear by the end of Christmas Eve, the Met Office said.

Chris Burton, from weather forecaster MeteoGroup, said the combination of wind and rain could cause flooding, bring down trees and leave widespread disruption to rail and road travel.

He said: "The rain is going to be heaviest and most persistent across southern areas of England, the Midlands and Wales, with up to 2in (50mm) of rain falling.

"There has been plenty of wet weather in the last week or so, there is a risk of localised or even widespread flooding if the rain continues overnight tonight, as expected.

"Strong winds will continue throughout today, with gusts of 60mph across England and Wales, Northern Ireland and western Scotland. Overnight they will be even stronger, with gusts of 70mph or 80mph possible across south east England and East Anglia.

"But by first thing tomorrow morning the weather should have turned a bit less wet and windy."

Visitor attractions have also had to put in contingency plans due to the weather.

The Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, central London, is closed today.

A spokesman said last night: "Due to the severe weather conditions of high winds and extreme rain predicted for London tomorrow, PWR Events and The Royal Parks have taken the decision to close Hyde Park Winter Wonderland on Monday for the day.

"All ticket holders for the Lycamobile Ice Rink, Zippos Circus, Magical Ice Kingdom and the Giant Observation Wheel will be refunded for Monday.

"We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused, but Hyde Park Winter Wonderland will be open as usual again on Tuesday at 10am. For further updates please follow us @hydeparkwinter."

By Press Association reporters