More than 80,000 homes are still without power and there is continued disruption on the road and rail networks in the wake of hurricane-force winds that left at least one person dead.
The Energy Networks Association said engineers had reconnected 145,000 homes and businesses following storm damage and would continue to work throughout Thursday, while train operators were striving to restore a number of services hit by heavy rain, and trees and debris strewn across tracks.
The prime minister is to lead talks on the recovery from one of the wettest winters on record, chairing a new cabinet committee on flood recovery. He said: “Government departments and agencies are working flat out to help everyone affected by the severe storms that hit much of the country last night.”
After a brief respite on Thursday, Britain faces more chaos as another storm is forecast to bring heavy rain, strong winds and further risk of flooding on Friday and into the weekend.
The West Country is expected to have 7cm (2.75in) of rain by Thursday, the Met Office said – more than the region would expect to get in the whole of February – while south Wales, western Scotland, Northern Ireland and other parts of southern England are also expected to be lashed by the deluge.
Snow is expected in northern England and parts of Scotland on Thursday, and on Friday more rain and winds of up to 80mph will arrive from the south-west.
On Wednesday, the Met Office issued a rare red warning – the first since January last year – indicating that people should take action to avoid risk to life. Police forces in Manchester, south and north Wales urged people to stay indoors as the winds, which reached 108mph in Aberdaron in north Wales, felled trees and sent debris flying. Wiltshire police said a man in his 70s had died in a suspected electrocution while attempting to move a tree that had brought down power cables near Chippenham.
A lorry driver was taken to hospital after high winds blew over his vehicle in Bristol, where the Clifton suspension bridge briefly closed for the first time in its history, while another man received treatment after becoming trapped under a fallen tree in Chivenor, near Barnstaple, Devon.
In Manchester, a 44-year-old woman was in hospital with a serious head injury after she was hit by a car on Wednesday night. Police believe she may have been blown into the road.
Across the rest of Greater Manchester, homeowners and businesses were picking up the pieces as tiles were torn off roofs, fences pulled down and brickwork fell off houses. In Wythenshawe, a family had a narrow escape when an oak tree hit their house.
At the Royal Bolton hospital, staff arrived on Thursday morning to find their 450-vehicle car park closed after bricks from the building were dislodged by the winds. All three of the region’s major motorways – the M6, M60 and M62 – were closed at various points during the night.
In Blackpool, buildings were wrecked as fierce winds savaged the Fylde coast. The storm shattered the windows of the seafront restaurant the Beach Hotel.
The manager, Hagop Tchobanian, said: “It’s just horrendous. The building is absolutely in bits. We’ve been left wide open with the rain pouring in. We’re dreading high tide.”
Firefighters were called more than 300 times about incidents in Lancashire. In neighbouring Merseyside, ferry services were cancelled on Wednesday night as winds reached speeds of 86mph.
Rail services, which were cancelled or subject to speed restrictions as the storm hit, were still disrupted on Thursday. First Great Western continued to urge passengers not to travel unless absolutely necessary, while services in the north run by First TransPennine Express, London Midland, Northern Rail, Virgin Trains, East Coast and Northern Rail and CrossCountry were also affected, according to Network Rail.
The AA reported dozens of roads closed across southern England and the west Midlands. In Worcester alone, dozens of roads and bridges were closed after the water level in the Severn was reported to have hit an all-time high.
Western Power Distribution said on Wednesday morning that there were 68,000 homes without power in north Wales and 15,000 in south Wales.
Severe flood warnings, indicating danger to life, remain in place in Berkshire, Surrey and Somerset, where hundreds of homes have been evacuated. The Environment Agency said 1,135 had been flooded since 29 January.