A powerful Atlantic storm has killed two people, caused travel chaos and threatened the east coast of England with the worst flooding seen in 60 years.
Emergency services launched rescue operations as hurricane-force winds moved south from Scotland, some of which topped 142mph in mountainous areas of Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire.
One man was killed when he was struck by a falling tree in a park in Retford, Nottinghamshire, and a lorry driver died when the HGV he was driving was blown on top of two cars on the A801 near Bathgate, West Lothian. Four others were injured in the accident.
Across the country more than 100,000 properties were left without electricity as gales sent trees crashing into power lines.
Parts of Newcastle city centre flooded after the River Tyne burst its banks, and the Environment Agency (EA) issued a number of severe flood warnings – meaning rising waters were expected to put lives in danger – for eastern coastal areas.
Thousands of homes in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent were evacuated ahead of a predicted storm surge experts feared could be higher than those during the devastating floods of 1953 – which battered the east coast of England and claimed the lives of hundreds of people.
Defences built since then – including the Thames and Hull barriers – mean that many parts of the country are much better protected, he said.
However, some coastal flood defences could be “overtopped” by the combined effect of high tides, high winds and a large tidal surge.
In Norfolk, 9,000 homes were evacuated, and a small number of soldiers brought in to help the flood defence effort.
Allan Urquhart, who lives on the seafront at Blakeney, brought a rowing boat to the King’s Arm pub to collect a friend.
“I’m going to row back to the house and we’ll stay upstairs tonight,” he said.
“We’ve put sandbags in place so hopefully we’ll be ok, I’m as confident as I can be.”
“This is the worst flooding I’ve seen so it could be a difficult night for lots of people.”
A further 1,000 properties were to be evacuated in affected areas in Suffolk and some residents in Jaywick, near Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, were urged to leave their homes.
Local officials set up emergency accommodation facilities and handing out sandbags to help people protect their properties, police said.
Police in Humberside also declared an emergency situation as they prepared for coastal surges.
Residents in Rhyl, North Wales, have been ferried to safety from flooded homes by lifeboats as the storm battered the coast and flooded dozens of homes.
A school in the town also had to be evacuated because of fast-flowing water.
Tidal floods were also expected in Germany and Scandinavia, together with freezing high winds from Greenland.
Around 1,400 homes in Northern Ireland were left without power, while Scottish Hydro Electric said more than 80,000 properties across the north of Scotland suffered blackouts with the worst affected areas the Highlands, Tayside and Argyll.
Power has since been restored to around 33,000 homes.
The adverse weather has also caused chaos to the transport network.
Rail services for Scotland and parts of the north of England were suspended on Thursday morning.
Trains were halted at their nearest stations and passengers told to disembark after Network Rail said debris on lines and damage to equipment meant it was not safe to operate any services.