Seeking shelter from the storm
The Westcountry was last night in the path of the worst storm in a decade as hurricane force winds began to batter the region.
Devon and Cornwall Police drafted in nearly 200 extra staff and last night set up a special emergency Silver Command centre to deal with the storm.
As the fierce weather brewed in the Atlantic gathering strength yesterday, forecasters escalated their warnings telling residents to be prepared for the worse.
Martin Young, Chief Forecaster at the Met Office, said there was no doubt it was a "major storm for the UK".
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He added with winds hitting speeds of 80mph plus, there was a strong likelihood that of significant damage left in their wake.
"This weather system is typical of what we expect to see in winter but as it's coming in during autumn – when trees are in leaf – and while the ground is fairly saturated, it does pose some risks.
"We could see some uprooted trees or other damage from the winds and there's a chance of some surface water flooding from the rainfall – all of which could lead to some disruption."
Transport is expected to be widely affected today with ferry services across the region cancelled and train companies operating reduced timetables. South West Trains went as far as to urge people to stay indoors.
Meanwhile the Environment Agency issued flood warnings across parts of Devon and said people should stay away from quaysides and harbours as waves were expected to overtop sea defences.
Devon and Cornwall Police has said protecting the public was its top priority during the storm which was expected to hit the region in the early hours bringing up to 40 mm of rain with it.
A Silver Command centre has was set up in Exeter, with three local command centres established in Truro, Plymouth and Exeter.
Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Sharon Taylor, who was coordinating activities for all agencies in the peninsula, said 110 extra staff had been called in and 58 special constables.
"We want to reassure the public that their safety is paramount and remains our absolute priority," she said.
Police said anyone at risk should dial 999 immediately. However many forces were asking that if residents had a non urgent matter they should wait until the storm had subsided.
ACC Taylor said drivers travelling in the region should take extra care, particularly with a caravan or mobile home.
"We are anticipating significant travel disruption and ask people to plan ahead, add extra time for their journey and check first whether essential travel services are running.
"Driving conditions are expected to be very difficult due the risk of flash flooding, fallen trees and other debris. We ask drivers to slow down, take care and give other motorists plenty of space."
Yesterday, the vast area of low pressure took shape over the Atlantic Ocean and Storm St Jude – named after the patron saint of lost causes whose feast day is today – was predicted to hit the South-West coast first before causing havoc elsewhere.
Atlantic storms of this type usually develop further west across the ocean, losing strength by the time they reach the UK and Ireland.
But this was expected to appear much closer to land, potentially moving across the country while in its most powerful phase. Yesterday strong winds and squally showers were providing a taste of what was to come.
A mangled wind turbine fell to the ground in high winds in Devon. No-one was injured when the 89ft high turbine crashed down into a field at a farm in the hamlet of Luton, near Teignmouth, Devon.
Firefighters in Ilfracombe, North Devon, dismantled a small wind turbine from the roof of a house in the seaside town after a report saying it was in a "precarious position".
Meanwhile a 999 alert and search in Lyme Regis was stood down. Reports a photographer may have been washed out to sea proved false.
The Prime Minister chaired a conference call with Government departments and agencies yesterday morning on plans to protect people from the storm.
Westcountry councils were also on standby last night.
The British Red Cross said teams ready to assist people stricken by the storm, and urged households to prepare for possible blackouts.