About 1,000 homes in south-east and south-west England have already been flooded and at one stage 300,000 properties in the south-east, the east of England and London had no electricity as bad weather threw many people’s Christmas celebrations into chaos.
The Met Office said widespread gales were likely to develop late during Thursday night or in the early hours of Friday morning bringing gusts of more than 50mph inland and of 70mph to 80mph to some coastal areas and high ground. On Thursday morning, the Environment Agency had 83 flood warnings in place, the bulk of them in the south-east (37), south-west (16), and the Midlands (18).
A Met Office spokesman said: “The public should be aware of the potential for disruption, especially where the high winds are combined with heavy rainfall.”
He said a deep area of low pressure developing over the Atlantic Ocean would bring more wet and windy weather across the UK as it tracked north-eastwards past north-western Britain later on Thursday and during Friday.
“Peak winds are thought most likely to occur during the early hours of Friday and Friday morning with the highest gusts probably being over Irish Sea coastal areas,” he said.
There was some consolation as he said the likely impact was presently thought to be “less severe” relative to other recent storms to have hit the UK.
The Energy Network Association said 13,000 properties remained without power on Thursday morning after 50,000 had no supplies on Christmas Day.
UK Power Networks, which delivers power to about 8 million customers in the south-east, the east of England and London, said that by Thursday morning there were around 8,000 without power in the area.
The director of customer services, Matt Rudling, said: “All our efforts today remain fully focused on reconnecting power supplies in the quickest way possible. Extra staff are on duty, many of whom have cancelled their leave to help with the repair effort or to join our additional call centres. We know this is a very difficult time for our customers and we want to thank them for their understanding.”
The bad weather also hampered the annual Christmas getaway. Some of the most chaotic scenes were at Gatwick airport, where a power outage at its north terminal led to more than 35 cancellations and long delays. Police stepped in to calm angry passengers. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said it may launch an investigation into the problems, which came two months after flights were hit by an earlier storm.
A CAA spokesman said: “We need to know exactly what happened at the airport. Once we have that information we can decide if there is any further action we need to take.”
The airport said heavy rain caused flooding from the River Mole into airfield substations and the north terminal.