Steve Allen 4am - 7am
Storm Dennis: Hundreds of flights cancelled in weather ‘worse than Ciara’
15 February 2020, 11:15
Storm Dennis hits UK with yellow weather warnings in place in east of England
Army sent in to help preparations in Calderdale, West Yorkshire
LNER running reduced train services and Greater Anglia advising customers to check before travel
More than 50 flights cancelled at Heathrow and Easyjet halted 250 planes from Gatwick, Luton, Stansted
Military personnel will be deployed to West Yorkshire today to support the ongoing recovery from last weekend’s flooding and the preparations for Storm Dennis.
Members of the armed forces will be sent to Calderdale in West Yorkshire with the UK braced for widespread weather disruption for the second weekend in a row as the storm sweeps in.
Heavy rain and strong winds are due to strike the country from Saturday morning and are likely to affect transport links and trigger floods.
Flights will be grounded for safety reasons, with British Airways and easyJet confirming cancellations, and anyone hoping to fly is advised to check their airline's website for the latest updates.
John Curtin, the Environment Agency's executive director of flood and coastal risk management, said Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire could be the worst-hit areas.
"This [storm] could be a step up from what we have seen before," Mr Curtin said.
"We had a big storm last weekend, [we now have] saturated catchments, snowmelt and rainfall, so it is a perfect storm."
More than 230 easyJet flights in and out of the UK on Saturday have been cancelled due to the weather.
Wind speeds are forecast to reach 70mph along coastlines while some parts of the country could witness up to 4.7in (120) of rain.
Experts have warned that conditions amount to a "perfect storm", with hundreds of homes at risk of flooding.
The Met Office has issued eight weather warnings covering most of the UK this weekend.
#StormDennis has been rapidly developing overnight and will continue to deepen through today.— Met Office (@metoffice) February 15, 2020
The central pressure is forecast to get near to 920 hectopascals (millibars) which is one of the lowest known pressures in the North Atlantic pic.twitter.com/e2nv6vswz6
This includes amber warnings from midday on Saturday over southern Scotland, northern England, Wales and part of the South West saying that flooding could cause a danger to life.
A spokesman for British Airways said: "The majority of our flights are planned to operate as planned, but, like all airlines flying to and from the UK today, we are experiencing some disruption due to the stormy weather conditions.
"We are merging a small number of Heathrow short-haul flights to the same destination and using larger aircraft where possible to minimise disruption.
"Customers can check ba.com for the latest flight information."
A spokeswoman for easyJet, which has confirmed 234 cancellations, said: "Due to forecasted adverse weather conditions caused by Storm Dennis, easyJet, like other airlines, is currently seeing disruption to its flight programme for Saturday February 15th.
"We are doing everything possible to minimise the impact of the disruption for our customers and to arrange alternative travel.
"Customers on cancelled flights have been given the option of transferring their flight free of charge or receiving a refund. We will also provide hotel rooms and meals for customers who require them.
"We recommend customers travelling to and from UK today, February 15th, to check the status of their flight and gate information on easyJet's Flight Tracker at www.easyjet.com/en/flight-tracker or on the app for latest travel updates.
"Whilst this is outside of our control, we would like to apologise to passengers for any inconvenience experienced as a result of the weather.
"The safety and welfare of our passengers and crew is easyJet's highest priority."
Power cuts are also expected and there is a good chance that train and buses will see cancellations or delays and roads closed.
More widely, yellow warnings the length and breadth of the UK are alerting the public to strong winds and rain as early as 7am in Scotland on Saturday, with regions further south feeling the impact from around 10am or midday.
The Environment Agency (EA) said flooding is likely to be worse than under last weekend's Storm Ciara due to rain falling on already saturated ground.
In England alone, 800 properties were left flooded when Storm Ciara struck, the EA said.
Newly-appointed Environment Secretary George Eustice said authorities were "fully focused on ensuring that communities are protected".
The Met Office said the "main areas of concern" on Saturday are north and south-west England and Wales, with the South East bearing the brunt more on Sunday.
As of 11pm on Friday, there were 12 flood warnings - meaning flooding is "expected" - and 141 flood alerts - meaning flooding is possible - in places across the country.
Flood defences are due to be in operation this weekend, with additional temporary flood barriers being installed in Shropshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Surrey.
More than 500 staff are on active incident duty and 30 mobile pumps have been deployed, the EA said.
Network Rail has advised passengers to expect disruption on many routes due to flooding and to allow more time for their journeys.
Meanwhile, people living near the railway are being urged to secure any loose items in their gardens, after several trampolines were blown on to tracks and overhead electric wires last weekend, blocking lines.
The storm is also likely to cause treacherous driving conditions, with drivers urged not to attempt entering deep floodwater.