Britain was braced on Sunday for its worst storm in a decade, with heavy rain and winds of more than 80 miles (130 kilometres) an hour set to batter the south of the country.
The Met Office national weather centre warned of falling trees, damage to buildings and disruption to power supplies and transport when the storm hits overnight to Monday.
Between 20 to 40 millimetres (0.8 to 1.6 inches) of rain is predicted to fall within six to nine hours starting on Sunday evening, likely leading to localised flooding, the Met Office said.
It will be followed by widespread gusts of between 60 and 80 miles an hour across southern England and south Wales on Monday, with winds reaching more than 80 miles an hour in some areas.
The Met Office has issued an “amber” wind warning for the region, the third highest in a four-level scale.
Similar wind strengths were last seen in Britain in March 2008, but forecaster Helen Chivers said the expected damage was more comparable with a storm seen in October 2002.
“This is what we would term a major winter storm, the sort of storm you would see in January,” she told AFP.
“It’s obviously coming in the autumn and the impact could be high because the leaves are still on the trees and the ground has more water in it”, meaning a higher likelihood of flooding and of trees coming down.
Comparisons have been made with the “Great Storm” in October 1987, which left 18 people dead in Britain and four in France.
It felled 15 million trees and caused damage worth more than £1 billion ($1.6 billion or 1.2 billion euros at current exchange rates) as winds blew up to 115 miles an hour, 94 in London.
Fish was the BBC’s main television weatherman in 1987 but famously denied that a major storm was on its way just hours before it hit.
Veteran weather forecaster Michael Fish said Sunday’s storm was unlikely to be as severe, although his comments will be taken with a pinch of salt in Britain.
This year’s storm has been named St Jude after the patron saint of lost causes, whose feast day is on Monday.
It is likely to affect northern France before heading off towards Denmark, Chivers said.