Image: Richard Webb
After coming out of what has been one of the mildest Decembers on record, those returning to work might have expected to be eased into their new years' workload with a relaxed first journey into work for 2012. Alas the weather gods have had different ideas. High winds and driving rain has battered the country moving across from the west, following the morning rush hour as it gathered pace. The Met Office issued several Amber weather alerts which signify potentially damaging winds, and one Red alert - the highest threat level was issued in Scotland.
According to Billy Payne, a forecaster for MeteoGroup, much of Wales and south-west England have had gusts of over 60mph this morning. As low pressure comes in, central and south Scotland will bear the brunt of the winds today. The UK will see gusts of 70mph to 80mph, even 85mph in places.
Severe weather effects felt across the country
In Scotland the main bridges over the Forth, Clyde and Tay were closed to all vehicles, as the weather deteriorated. Engineers on the Forth Bridge tweeted a graph of the wind speeds showing that they were literally 'off the scale'. The Christmas Tree in Glasgow's George Square also fell as gusts of 95mph were recorded in the city centre.
In south west England, the Environment Agency issued Yellow flood alerts on 21 rivers from Cornwall to Wiltshire. The Tamar Bridge, which spans the river between Devon and Cornwall, was closed to high-sided vehicles because of strong winds. First Great Western rail services between Truro and Penzance were hit by an obstruction blocking all lines.
Heavy winds forced the closure of roads and bridges as well as disrupting ferries and rail services across Ireland. Storm force gales continue to batter the country with power supplies cut in rural areas on both sides of the Irish border. Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) said fallen branches and trees had already damaged power lines, disrupting electricity supplies in some areas. It said hundreds of extra engineers had been called in to cope with any major problems.
Police in Cumbria have urged motorists to take extra care and avoid unnecessary journeys. A spokeswoman said gusts of 70mph have hit the region, with a number of reported incidents. A lorry overturned on to the hard shoulder of the M6 southbound near Tebay, while a tree fell into the road on the A66 at Kirby Thore, Penrith.
All in all it proved to be a wild return to work for people across the country, precisely what they didn't need as the relaxed days of the festive season begin to fade into memory. However if you had a difficult trip into work this morning, spare a thought for the victims of this particular statistic. According to the AA and RAC today traditionally there are more vehicle breakdowns than any day of the year, as cars across the land are fired up for the first time since the festive holidays began. So as your wet clothes begin to dry out and that first work coffee begins to take effect, spare a thought for those sitting in their cars being battered by the winds waiting for rescue to arrive. Happy 2012!