Kent is now covered by its first red weather warning for the wind as Storm Eunice crosses the southern half of the UK today.
The Met Office’s highest level wind warning ever issued for south-east England is in effect from 7am to midday on February 18 with significant disruption and dangerous conditions expected.
People are urged to avoid travel if they can and to stay home when winds reach peak speeds, potentially gusting to 80-90mph, from mid-morning.
The National Highways have closed the southbound QEII Bridge and all traffic is diverted through the Dartford Tunnel to the east.
Northbound through traffic is confined to the use of the west bore Dartford Tunnel only with a height restriction of 4’8m (15’9″). If routes are essential, vehicles above this height will need to seek an alternative route via the M25 clockwise.
Southeastern has canceled a number of trains and is asking people not to travel. Follow the latest updates on Southeast service disruptions here
Toby Howe, KRF Tactical Manager and Kent County Council (KCC) Senior Highways Manager said Eunice was a major storm and it was essential that people stay in touch with traffic, travel and weather updates to ensure they stay safe from harm .
Toby Howe said: “The latest Met Office forecast makes it clear that Eunice is a severe storm which is expected to cause significant disruption to Kent.
“Gusts could peak at over 80 mph, making them probably the strongest weather systems we have seen in the county in many years.
“Driving conditions across the county will be treacherous at times, particularly for high-sided vehicles and other vulnerable vehicles like motorcycles, some bridges will be closed, and roads and railroads could be blocked by fallen trees and debris. and people are urged to avoid travel if they can.
“We must all take the warnings from the Met Office very seriously and I urge everyone to take reasonable precautions to stay safe and not put others, including the emergency services, at unnecessary risk.”
Steps you can take to stay safe during a storm include:
- KEEP UPDATED with the latest weather forecasts and weather warnings – by visiting the Met Office website or following the Met Office social media channels, including on Twitter via @metoffice, @metofficeSEEng and @metofficeUK. Key hashtags to follow are #weatherready #weatherwarnings and #StormEunice. You can also follow the Met Office on You Tube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok
- FOLLOWING MET OFFICE SEASONAL ADVICE – read ‘How to stay safe during a storm’
- IF YOUR TRIP IS ESSENTIAL, CHECK YOUR ITINERARY BEFORE YOU GO – to find out where to go for the latest Kent traffic and travel updates, visit KCC’s Travel and Transport page here, and
- IF YOU MUST TRAVEL, ALLOW EXTRA TIME TO GET TO YOUR DESTINATION – because the driving conditions in a storm are difficult and potentially dangerous and you may experience delays. Also follow advice from national highways about traveling on main roads in strong winds
- NATIONAL HIGHWAYS – in conjunction with the Met Office, issued a severe weather warning for strong winds covering several areas, including the south east, between 6am and 6pm on Friday. This means high-sided vehicles, caravans and motorbikes could be overturned on specific sections of road including, in Kent, the: A2 Jubilee Way near Dover; M2 J2-J3 Medway Viaduct; A249 Kings Ferry / Sheppey Crossing and A282 QE2 Bridge / Dartford Bridge. The QE2 bridge will be closed at 5 a.m. Friday and southbound contraflow traffic via the East Tunnel. National Highway Traffic Emergency Crews will be on site and, once the winds have passed and security checks are complete, will reopen the bridge as soon as possible.
- KCC HIGHWAYS – additional crews and arborists are on standby to close and clear roads of fallen trees and debris as quickly as possible. To report any emergency issues, including fallen trees on the road, to KCC Highways, call 03000 418181, between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, or 03000 419191 at any other time.
- SOUTH EAST trains – are operating on a reduced timetable and applying a 50mph speed restriction across most of its network on Friday. Read the latest from Southeastern here
- CROSS CHANNEL ROUTES – anyone booked to travel to and from France via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel on Friday should keep in touch with their operator. Full contact details are here: Eurotunnel; P&O Ferries and DFDS. Freight drivers heading for ferries and cross-Channel shuttles should check with their operators and follow instructions on overhead signs on the motorway.
- UK POWER NETWORKS – say there is a possibility of blackouts in Kent and high winds are likely to mean it will not be safe for crews to start carrying out repairs to restore power until Friday afternoon. Vulnerable customers will be given priority, but anyone affected by a power cut can contact UK Power Networks by calling 105. Visit ukpowernetworks.co.uk/power-cut/contact-us for 24 hour contact details and 7 days a week.
- GAS LEAK – if you suspect a gas leak, call the National Grid emergency line on 0800 111 9999.
ON THE COAST
- ENVIRONMENT AGENCY – some flood warnings are in place and the strongest Eunice winds, potentially above 80mph, will be felt in coastal and exposed areas. The EA warns that large waves are likely and beach material could be blown onto seafronts, coastal roads, paths and properties. Watching the waves and posing for stormy selfies could put you and others at risk, including emergency services. In the event of flooding, call the Environment Agency on 0800 807060.
- NHS – the vaccination bus which was due to be at Asda in Chatham on Friday has been cancelled.
BATTLE THE HATCHES AT HOME
- Pay attention to elderly and vulnerable neighbours, especially if there are power outages where you live, and
- Lock shed doors and secure patio furniture, trampolines, wheelie bins, and other outdoor items that could be blown away by high winds.
- Secure all street furniture such as tables, chairs and
- Secure or bring signage to the front of the premises indoors so that it does not pose a risk to others.