UK weather: Britain braced for ‘EXPLOSIVE’ Storm Barra tomorrow

Thousands of British families still dealing with the fallout from Storm Arwen have been warned of more chaos on the way as Storm Barra is set to hit tomorrow bringing up to four inches of snow, 70mph winds and driving rain.

Around 3,200 homes, mainly in North East England, remained without power overnight ten days after Arwen, and Barra – a deep area of low pressure moving in from the Atlantic – is now set to have a ‘significant impact’.

The Met Office issued a warning covering the whole of England and Wales for tomorrow and into the night with gusts of up to 70mph expected in exposed coastal locations and around 50mph in many areas.

It warns that ‘short term loss of power’ is possible, which is grim news for families who have already endured days of power cuts in the wake of Arwen which hit supplies to more than one million households on November 26.

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) said that 3,190 homes were still waiting to be reconnected as of 2pm yesterday. This was down from 4,025 homes yesterday morning, with the majority in the North East of England. 

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) said power had been restored to all 135,000 of its affected customers by yesterday evening, but forecasters warned of another ‘explosive’ event from the Atlantic tomorrow.

Farmer David Eccles and his daughter Emma at their farm in County Durham yesterday which has been without power since Storm Arwen hit on November 26. Around 3,200 homes, mainly in North East England, were still without power overnight

Craftsman Emily Heavisive (left) and Trooper Josh Harvey (right) from the Royal Lancers carry out a welfare check on a remote property that remains without power in Teesdale yesterday as the high winds from Storm Arwen continue to impact homes

Craftsman Emily Heavisive (left) and Trooper Josh Harvey (right) from the Royal Lancers carry out a welfare check on a remote property that remains without power in Teesdale yesterday as the high winds from Storm Arwen continue to impact homes 

Power cables undergo repair in a remote area of Teesdale yesterday as thousands of properties remain without power

Power cables undergo repair in a remote area of Teesdale yesterday as thousands of properties remain without power

Now repair crews are bracing for more disruption after meteorologists said electricity lines could be brought down again by the ‘weather bomb’ – a phenomenon which occurs if the central section of a low pressure system deepens by 24 millibars in 24 hours.  It is expected the storm building in the Atlantic will exceed that level.

The Irish weather service Met Éireann named it Storm Barra yesterday and the Met Office then followed suit.

The Met Office has issued weather warnings for tomorrow

The Met Office has issued weather warnings for tomorrow

Met Office meteorologist Annie Shuttleworth said a ‘dusting of snow’ was likely on northern hills, such as the Peak and Lake District today, with showers and hail also giving a ‘fairly wintry feel’.

‘The snow is likely to cause significant disruption on higher routes,’ she added, with delays to rail, air and road travel on higher ground.

The worst hit northern areas could also see overnight temperatures plunge to -6C (21F) and it ‘may not get above freezing by day’ in these areas.

The Army continued to support residents without electricity over the weekend.

Rachel Johnstone, who lives outside Morpeth in Northumberland, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘We still have no power. We’re into day ten now without power.

‘We live in a little hamlet just outside Morpeth. Not incredibly rural, but we We’re about four miles outside Morpeth in Northumberland. It’s been incredibly difficult, obviously without power you have no lights and we have no heating, which obviously then you have no washing machine and things like that.

‘It’s been incredibly trying, there’s obviously people in the hamlet that are far worse off than myself, people with young babies under the age of one, we’ve got elderly relatives and elderly residents in the hamlet as well which are suffering and at greater need as well. 

‘We’ve seen the fire brigade out on Friday, but that was seven days after the storm, checking on residents and we’ve had the Army out on Saturday, checking on residents.

What is a weather bomb? 

A ‘weather bomb’ – also known as an ‘explosive cyclogenesis’ by meteorologists – happens when there is a rapid fall in pressure in the central section of an area of low pressure.

The level has to fall by 24 millibars in 24 hours in our latitudes to be classed as a ‘bomb’.

The events happen when dry air from the stratosphere flows into an area of low pressure.

This causes air within the depression to rise very fast and increases its rotation, which deepens the pressure and creates a more vigorous storm.

They happen most frequently over sea near major warm ocean currents, such as the western Pacific Ocean near the Kuroshio Current, or over the north Atlantic Ocean near the Gulf Stream.

There are estimated to be between 45 and 65 explosive cyclogenesis events a year and that more ‘bombs’ tend to occur in the northern hemisphere. 

‘But with regards to Northern Powergrid we’ve had no help to speak of, no generators, nothing. We’ve had to provide them ourselves if we can but obviously a lot of the elderly relatives and the elderly residents haven’t got that kind of means to make generators come to the area.

‘We had assurances that it would be on on December 1, then I was told on December 2 that it was meant to be on by midnight last night and we still have no power.

‘The power cables are still lying by the roadside with the snapped telegraph poles, so I knew when we were speaking last night to Northern Powergrid that the power would not be turned back on last night.

‘It’s very difficult for a lot of people within the hamlet because we have animals – dogs and horses, and people have many animals, seven working dogs or a livery yard with 30 horses. And then you’ve got elderly people that don’t really want to move out of their properties.’

MailOnline has contacted Northern Powergrid for comment.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told the BBC the number of homes still without power was ‘totally unacceptable’. He said: ‘In this day and age, 4,000 people should not be without power for so long.’

Mr Kwarteng visited the North East yesterday to survey the damage done by the storm.

During a visit to a Northern Powergrid call centre in Penshaw, near Sunderland, Mr Kwarteng said: ‘I think we can make the system a lot more resilient.

‘I had an experience on August 9, 2019 when a million people in the South East were commuting and they had a power outage.

‘Immediately after that we had a review and we looked at the system and we held the transport and train companies’ feet to the fire and we have got a more resilient system. That’s exactly what I want to happen this time.

‘We will have a review, we will see if the distributor companies have enough infrastructure, we may even have enforcement action if necessary.’

Speaking at the call centre, Mr Kwarteng said: ‘I don’t accept that (the power cuts would have been resolved quicker in the South). The physical infrastructure, layout and landscape is very different.

‘One of the particular reasons why we haven’t got people back on the power supply is the weather conditions and they are very challenging (with) people in sparsely populated, very rural areas and that represents a challenge.’

On Saturday, Boris Johnson said he had held calls with those leading the response to Storm Arwen and the Government was ready to further support the recovery work ‘in any way we can’.

Mr Kwarteng said a review would be carried out and if energy firms were found to have ‘failed to invest in infrastructure’ then ‘there could be enforcement action’.

He also said that there had been a ‘huge communication issue’ with energy firms keeping residents updated.

Met Office meteorologist Simon Partridge warned that gale force winds of 45mph to 50mph tomorrow and into Wednesday would not make it ‘easier’ for those trying to reconnect the remaining homes.

‘It’s certainly not going to aid things with those sorts of wind strengths, and a mixture of rain and snow in there as well,’ he said. ‘It’s not going to make working conditions any easier for those out and about.’

Icy temperatures, wind and rain failed to deter revellers at the weekend. Many were spotted heading out to festive parties in short skirts and skimpy tops.

Elsewhere there were still signs of the damage caused by Arwen – including a bent Christmas tree outside Manchester Cathedral. Ireland’s West Coast is expected to take the full force of the tempest from tomorrow night. 

‘It is not good news,’ said forecaster Dan Stroud. ‘As it approaches, it deepens explosively. It is going to bring in a wide band of rain, bumping into cold air over Scotland and turning readily to snow.’

He said the worst of the winds will be confined to the East Coast, with gusts of 60mph to 70mph in exposed locations, adding: ‘It’s not going to be particularly pleasant, especially where high winds result in drifting snow.’

The first Met Office yellow warning starts at 9am tomorrow, when strong winds begin to sweep the country, and ends at midnight.

At 11am tomorrow another severe warning, for snow, comes into force. Forecasters say some communities could be cut off in the blizzards. This warning also expires at midnight.

The Scottish Government, criticised for its response to Arwen, has been urged to call in the Army sooner if Storm Barra threatens to cause similar disruption.

A spokesman for the ENA said that operators were ‘working together’ to prepare for the storm.

‘Energy network operators are working together to prepare for the developing Storm Barra,’ he said. ‘We’re monitoring forecasts regularly, coordinating response plans and preparing to share resources if required.’

The long delays have prompted energy regulator Ofgem to warn it will take enforcement action against network companies who failed to restore power to customers quickly enough. It has also agreed with firms to lift the £700 cap on compensation which could be offered to those stuck without power.

The change will allow those affected to claim £70 for each 12-hour period they have no electricity, after an initial £70 for the first 48 hours of any cut.

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