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Storm Eunice: ‘extremely strong winds’ peaking Friday morning and Taw Bridge closed

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Devon County Council is advising people to only travel if absolutely necessary with ‘extremely strong winds’ as the county is battered by gale force winds.

The Met Office has escalated its Yellow Wind Warning for the region , issued on Tuesday, to Amber. And now a Red warning has been issued for northern Devon and it’s coastline. The warning will revert back to ‘yellow’ for the duration of Saturday afternoon.

The south west is expected to be battered by gale force winds caused by Storm Eunice – they will be at their strongest in coastal areas between 7am to 12pm on Friday morning, with gusts of 90-100mph possible.

There is an increasing likelihood of widespread inland wind gusts of 60-70 mph and up to 80 mph in a few places. Strong winds are also expected to continue over the weekend.

The Met Office says that Eunice may cause ‘significant disruption’ on the county’s roads, and that there is a good chance that flying debris could result in ‘a danger to life.’

Taw Bridge, Barnstaple, is now closed to ALL vehicles, with constant wind speeds exceeding 50mph. Other bridges may also be affected. Wind speeds are being constantly monitored, so please check before you travel. If you must travel during a bridge closure please plan your journey, find a safer alternative route, and leave extra time.

The high winds will also affect some other services and all of Devon’s recycling centres are closed today (Friday, February 18).

Schools will also be affected – Devon County Council is supporting any school that decides it needs to close today. A list of school closures can be found on Schools Information webpage.

Meanwhile, the County Council’s school transport service will be operating if it is safe to do so.  Parents and carers are asked to visit the school transport route closure website, to check if their child’s routes have been closed due to safety concerns.

If students use public transport to get to school we also recommend that they check with the operator to determine if services will be disrupted.

Additionally mobile libraries and the Public Health mobile coronavirus testing and vaccination vans will not be running today.

Damage to buildings and homes is likely, with roofs blown off and power lines brought down. Roads, bridges and railway lines are likely to close, with delays and cancellations to bus, train, ferry services and flights.

And on the coast, flooding and large waves are likely. During these times people are advised to stay away from coastal paths and coastal areas as beach debris is likely to be thrown onto sea fronts, coastal roads and properties.

In preparation extra staff are being drafted into Devon County Council’s Network Operations Control Centre and extra highways teams will be ready to respond. Teams of tree-surgeons will also be on stand-by to clear any fallen trees on the county’s roads.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said:

“The Met Office has increased its alert level and Storm Eunice will make travelling conditions quite perilous for during Friday morning and we are advising if you can avoid travelling, please do so.

“Such strong winds may well lead to fallen trees or branches, and other debris. If you must travel, please take extra care, particularly when its dark when its more difficult to see debris on the road.

“To prepare for this, extra people are being drafted to staff our Network Operations Control Centre and highways teams and tree surgeons are on standby.

“If possible, postpone your journey until conditions improve and if you do have to travel, slow down, allow extra time for your journey and drive according to the conditions. Keep an eye on travel updates and weather forecasts and please plan your journey.”

Devon County Council is reminding people of the following advice:

• Avoid overnight travel unless absolutely essential as roads will always be more hazardous at night with poorer visibility;
• Be alert to fallen trees and branches, particularly on minor roads where they may not have been reported;
• Consider if your journey is essential and be alert to weather warnings;
• Never drive through floodwater or swollen flowing water, you don’t know how deep it is. Find an alternative route;
• Allow additional time for your journey;
• Reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the vehicle in front and leave plenty of room if you’re overtaking;
• Drive with care and according to the conditions.

For more information and winter travel advice visit the County Council’s winter travel webpages or for updates on Twitter follow @DevonAlert