Howling winds and heavy rain are wreaking havoc on people’s great Christmas getaway plans in Gloucestershire as the county is battered by the elements.
Forecasters at the Met Office have issued a severe weather warning for the South West, urging residents to be prepared for more adverse conditions over the next 24 hours.
A flood warning has been issued by the Environment Agency for the River Severn at Severn Ham, Tewkesbury, including Abbey Mill, Upper and Lower Lode and Shakespeare Court.
An Environment Agency (EA) update on Monday evening said the water level at the Mythe gauge was 2.9 metres and rising fast. A peak level of between 3.4 and 3.9 metres is expected on Wednesday morning.
Flood alerts were also issued for the River Severn, between Tewkesbury and Gloucester and the River Chelt.
At 6.45 pm on Monday evening the level at the River Chelt, at Cox's Flume Gauge, was at 1.38 metres and described by the EA as "steady".
Motorists have been warned to go slowly amidst surface water flooding and rail travellers have been told to expect delays as they try to make their way home to families over the next 24 hours.
Platforms at Cheltenham Spa railway station were swarming with people on Monday as office workers spilled out of work early in a bid to beat the rush.
The unlucky ones were left waiting for hours. Trees blowing down on tracks due to 60mph gusts caused delays while some services were cancelled altogether.
Ken Denly, 66, was one of the lucky ones with his train to see family in Worcester running on time.
“It’s typical,” he said. “You can make all the best laid plans for Christmas but you can’t plan the weather. I left early to make sure I wasn’t stranded on Christmas Eve.”
Bosses at rail operator First Great Western said journey times on all its routes were likely to be “significantly extended” tonight and on Christmas Eve.
A statement from the company said: "First Great Western's High Speed Services are severely affected by the restriction along with other branch line and Main line services. Journey times on all routes will be significantly extended."
Meanwhile, highway teams are poised to respond to weather related incidents on the roads with extra tree surgeons called in to minimise concerns over falling branches.
Drivers are urged to check the latest updates ahead of their journeys today and not to drive through standing floodwater at speed.
Darron Burness, head of the AA’s flood rescue team, says: “It’s been a pretty busy and miserable day on the roads.
“In the current conditions, try to complete your journey in daylight, if possible, and be prepared for some disruption on the roads. With so much surface water and spray, keep your speed down and drop back from the vehicle in front as stopping distances increase significantly on wet roads."
County councillor Vernon Smith, cabinet member for roads and flooding, said: “Our road crews put in tremendous effort battling against the elements around the clock to keep the county moving.
“I would like to thank crews for their dedication braving the weather so we can go about our daily lives, especially in the run up to Christmas.
“Gloucestershire County Council is prepared should stormy weather hit, and travellers should be prepared too.
"Please drive safely, check your journey and don’t drive through flood water.”
Police said they had been inundated with 350 weather related calls throughout today, including flooding, fallen trees and damaged buildings.
The winds even proved too high for Santa. A giant decoration featuring the seasonal visitor blew down from its perch above the beer gardens in Cheltenham’s Imperial Gardens.
Temperatures are set to stay between 4C (39.2F) and 11C (51.8F) tomorrow.
Arwyn Harris, from the Met Office, said: "The combination of strong gusty winds and plenty of rain means there will be some very unpleasant conditions, especially for those who are travelling, - with lots of standing water and spray, and no doubt there’ll be some instances of branches down, and perhaps some wind damage to temporary seasonal structures here and there too.
"Conditions will slowly improve during Monday night, and then on Tuesday there will be a lot less rain around, although it will still quite windy – more so across Staffordshire and Shropshire though, where again we are more likely to see some wind damage to trees etc, although frankly it will be quite breezy everywhere tomorrow, although winds generally will ease down through the late Tuesday afternoon and evening. (Of course although rainfall will be a lot less on Tuesday, there will still be some quite wet conditions on the ground, and the rivers could still be responding to the previous days rainfall – and questions about river response and the potential for river flooding should be addressed to the Environment Agency.)
"Christmas day weather looks a bit calmer and sensible a bit breezy with some showers, nothing likely to be disruptive though, although some sleet and snow across higher parts of Shropshire and Staffordshire is possible, although shouldn’t be enough to cause any problems to transport networks.
"Boxing Day again looks fairly settled and quiet, however conditions will go downhill again on Friday, as another big Atlantic storm system develops to the west of the UK. Chances are for the wider West Midlands area this second storm will mean quite a bit more wind and rain, although again the brunt of the weather will likely be borne by the Welsh hills."
Met Office continues to urge people to keep up to date with the forecast and warnings on it’s website at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/warnings/
How has the weather affected your plans for Christmas? Email firstname.lastname@example.org