A man and a woman have died as rain and winds of up to 87mph sweep the country disrupting the Christmas getaway and leaving more than 6,000 without power.
A man died in Cumbria after falling into the River Rothay at Ambleside triggering a large rescue search involving the police, RAF, Coastguard, and mountain rescue teams. In a separate incident, a woman died after falling into a river at Gwynedd in North Wales.
A motorist died on Sunday at Bolventor, in Cornwall after a three-car accident during a hail storm.
In Horsham, West Sussex, two children were treated for minor injuries after being hit by branches from a falling tree.
Flood warnings were in place across the whole country as it was hit by relentless rain falling on already saturated ground and winds whipping to 70-80mph.
Around 3,000 homes are without power in Cornwall and a further 2,000 in other parts of the South West after high winds brought down power lines, according to Western Power Distribution. According to Southern Electricity, there are 1,100 without power in Berkshire.
The spokesman for the Met Office said a new wind speed high had been recorded at Capel Curig in Conwy, North Wales, with gusts blowing at 87mph.
Not far behind was Berry Head in Torbay, Devon, with gusts of 76mph.
The Dartford QE2 bridge is closed until 4am tomorrow morning, the M48 Severn Bridge is closed to high-sided vehicles and the Sheppey Crossing in Kent has also been closed until Tuesday morning.
An Essex police spokesman said: “The tunnels will remain open to help maintain the flow of traffic, but congestion is expected so drivers are advised to seek alternative routes if possible or avoid the Thurrock and Dartford areas of Essex and Kent.”
In London, Royal Parks officials closed Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Richmond Park, Bushy Park, St James’s Park and Green Park due to the high winds expected overnight on Monday.
The Met Office has issued more than 200 amber “be prepared” warnings across the country. There are 56 “immediate action required” flood warnings in place and one severe warning – meaning lives are at risk – at the Sea Life Centre in the area of Lodmoor, Weymouth.
Sky News’ weather presenter Nazaneen Ghaffar said: “There will be heavy downpours bringing 20-40mm of rainfall quite widely and over 60mm likely across parts of the high ground.”
“As the rain is falling on already saturated ground that could cause both surface water and river flooding in these areas.”
The stormy weather is expected to move to northern areas for Christmas Eve but Christmas Day looks set for calmer weather, however, there are warnings the strong winds and driving rain will return on Friday.
But it is the trains that are expected to bear the brunt of the nasty weather and at least 21 train companies said there were changes to timetables and cancelled services.
An emergency go-slow limit of 50mph is in force on many routes.
Train bosses say “hundreds of engineers” will be on call over the next two days to deal with any blocked tracks or technical problems.
Passengers are being urged to check the latest information before setting out.
Network Rail Managing Director Robin Gisby said: Robin Gisby, managing director of operational services for Network Rail, said the next couple of days would be a challenge.
He said: “Our fundamental concern over the next 48 hours is to get everyone where they want to be for Christmas.”
“It won’t be an easy task given the forecast conditions and disruption is likely – but I want to be very clear that our priority is running as many trains as we can safely, rather than worrying about hitting the timetable bang on.”
Many companies have removed limits on day tickets to deter people from travelling at the height of the bad weather.
Motorists were urged to be take special care on the roads and check the flood updates ahead of their journey, as the AA reported it was dealing with 1,100 breakdowns every hour.
The Environment Agency and the AA strongly advised not entering flood water that is moving or more than 10cm deep.
David Jordan, Director of Operations at the Environment Agency, said: “Tragically people die because they’ve taken risks and attempted to drive through flood water just to save a few minutes.”
“Flood water is dangerous. If there is widespread flooding in your area then don’t travel and if a road is closed then turn around and make a detour.”
The Highways Agency said high-sided vehicles and motorcyclists should be especially careful in the high winds and and put out a list of potentially treacherous routes.
The RAC predicted 13 million people would take to the roads from December 24 to 26.
There were cancellations and delays at both Gatwick and Heathrow airports, while the Port of Dover was closed at 9pm becuse of the adverse weather conditions.
Visitor attractions are also playing it safe, with the popular Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park staying shut on Monday as well as Kew Gardens’ Christmas attraction.
Festive revellers will get a brief respite from the unsettled weather on Christmas Day and Boxing Day but the stormy conditions are due to return on Friday.