Weather warning as wind forecast

EXTRA staff were on standby at a major electricity company today, as predicted gale-force winds triggered its emergency procedures.Weathermen were forecasting high winds and prolonged periods of rain across Suffolk for much of today and the next few days with storms sweeping in from the Atlantic.

By Richard Cornwell

EXTRA staff were on standby at a major electricity company today, as predicted gale-force winds triggered its emergency procedures.

Weathermen were forecasting high winds and prolonged periods of rain across Suffolk for much of today and the next few days with storms sweeping in from the Atlantic.

But today the winds were not expected to be as bad as first thought - though there could be gusts of up to 60mph tonight.

Council emergency officers have advised people to stay away from woods and waves over the next few days, and warned that trees could fall.

But despite the warning from Suffolk Coastal, the council's Grove woodland at Felixstowe - where three-year-old Benjamin Davey died when a tree fell on him during a storm 16 months ago - was still open to walkers this morning.

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Electricity distributor EDF Energy said: "We have been in regular contact with the Met Office since early last week to obtain the most accurate and up to date information available on the weather front currently developing.

"We have triggered the early stages of our emergency plan. Additional staff have been identified and placed on standby for our control rooms, call taking centres and in the field.

"We have also been in contact with the emergency teams at the local authorities we work with, and with BT to check the robustness of its network. We are also prepared, if necessary, to call on additional staff from other companies in parts of the country less affected by this weather front."

The company had introduced 57 improvements to its procedures since the storms of October 2002, including more tree-trimming to reduce the risk of damage to the overhead power network, and a better call system.

A Suffolk Coastal council spokesman said the storm was expected to bring "a significant risk" that people could be injured by falling trees, branches, roof tiles and other windblown debris unless proper care is taken.

"The emergency planning team at Suffolk Coastal is recommending that people stay away from woods or forested areas and beware of falling building debris while this warning is in force," he said.

"Danger from large waves in exposed sea front areas may also be significant. If such severe conditions should occur, it is a good idea to stay indoors unless you really need to travel."

Michael Dukes, of the PA Weather Centre, said most of Britain should escape a battering by severe gale force winds today but a storm set to sweep parts of the country tonight will be worse than expected.

Originally the Met Office had expected winds of up to 90mph and torrential rain. But that is now expected to pass to the south of the country, with the severe winds instead affecting the English Channel and northern France.

However, a new storm will arrive tonight could bring gusts of 60-70mph.

WEBLINKS: www.suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/europe/uk.eastern.html

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