A man has died and travel plans have been severely disrupted as Storm Arwen battered the UK.
Motorists were warned not to travel “under any circumstances” along parts of east Scotland and north-east England while some train services were scrapped altogether as high winds, heavy rain and snowfall arrived from Friday afternoon.
In Northern Ireland, a man was killed when his car was struck by a falling tree in Antrim.
Friday night’s rugby union Premiership game between Newcastle Falcons and Worcester Warriors was postponed until Saturday evening due to safety concerns.
In North Wales, ITV were forced to pre-record Friday night’s episode of I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! amid concerns, including that poor weather would meddle with the broadcast around Gwrych Castle.
The Met Office issued the rare red warning for wind from 3pm on Friday to 2am on Saturday as Storm Arwen arrived to batter the country, with gusts forecast to be as high as 90mph and waves as high as 10 metres.
As of 10pm, the Met Office said the highest gust recorded during Arwen was 78 mph in Inverbervie, south of Aberdeen.
ScotRail services were also disrupted between Edinburgh and Glasgow Queen Street, Dunblane and Stirling after a barn was blown onto the line close to Polmont, near Falkirk.
Footage showed howling winds whipping up the North Sea in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, and snowfall elsewhere, including in Redcar, Yorkshire, and Whitley Bay, Northumberland.
The red warning stretches along the east coast from Middlesbrough to beyond Aberdeen and is the first maximum alert to be issued since Storm Dennis in February 2020.
Grahame Madge, a Met Office spokesman, said the forecaster did not “issue red warnings lightly” and warned people to stay away from the affected area.
“People need to recognise, really, that we don’t issue red warnings lightly so, therefore, when we do we feel that there is a much higher threat of risk,” he said.
“We urge people, obviously, to take action as a result of that and that action in this case is probably don’t go to the coast.”
Rod Dennis, of RAC Breakdown, warned of the chance of major disruption and urged motorists to “avoid driving if at all possible”.
“Red warnings from the Met Office are relatively rare and are the strongest possible signal to drivers not to set out in the first place unless absolutely necessary,” he said.
Travel watchdog Traffic Scotland confirmed sections of the A1 and the A9 were closed due to the weather.
The Tyne Bridge was also shut, with motorists warned to expect delays when travelling in the affected areas.
Superintendent Simon Bradshaw, from Police Scotland’s road policing unit, said motorists in the red warning area “should not travel under any circumstances” and added those in amber and yellow warning zones should “not journey out unless for essential purposes, and if you are doing so, to be mindful of the challenging conditions you will face”.
ScotRail has already warned of train cancellations because of the storm and said it is limiting train speeds on many routes.
LNER, which runs services between London and Edinburgh, cancelled many of its trains while those Scotland-bound which continued terminated at Newcastle.
Temperatures are set to fall with the storm, too, and the Met Office has warned the north east of England, north west of England, Yorkshire, West Midlands and the East Midlands will experience cold weather until Monday.
The UK Health Security Agency has issued a cold weather alert and Will Land, head of civil contingencies at the forecaster, said: “The UK will see temperatures drop to below average in the coming days, as cold air is drawn in from the north.
“This is coupled with the strong winds associated with Storm Arwen, which means it will feel especially cold in the wind.
“Areas in the north will see temperatures below freezing overnight, with daytime maximum temperatures only getting into the low single figures.
“It’s important to note that strong wind speeds, in excess of 65mph in exposed locations, will exacerbate the cold temperatures we’ll be seeing over the weekend.”