A RED weather alert has been issued for parts of Devon.

People are being advised to avoid all but essential travel as Storm Eunice prepares to batter Devon overnight into Friday, February 18.

An amber weather warning is in place for the whole of the county on Friday, upgraded to a red “danger to life” warning in North Devon and Cornwall between 7am to midday – the first issued by the Met Office for wind since 2018.

It says the gale force winds will be at their strongest in coastal areas of the south west, where they “could be in excess of 90 mph.”

Anything above 75 mph is classed as a hurricane on the Beaufort Wind Scale.

There is also an increasing likelihood of widespread inland wind gusts of 60-70 mph (classed as a violent storm above 64 mph) and up to 80 mph in a few places.

The strong winds also expected to continue over the weekend.

The Exeter-based Met Office says Eunice may cause “significant disruption” on the county’s roads, and that there is a good chance that flying debris could result in “a danger to life”.

Damage to buildings and homes is likely, with roofs blown off and power lines brought down. Roads, bridges and railway lines are likely to close, with delays and cancellations to bus, train, ferry services and flights.

On the coast, flooding and large waves are likely. During these times people are advised to stay away from coastal paths and coastal areas as beach debris is likely to be thrown onto sea fronts, coastal roads and properties.

Devon County Council is asking its residents to consider postponing journeys, and to avoid travelling unless “absolutely essential.” At night roads will be more hazardous with poorer visibility.

It says the high winds are likely to result in the temporary closure of Taw Bridge in Barnstaple and is asking people to check before they travel, saying: “If you must travel during a bridge closure please plan your journey, find a safer alternative route, and leave extra time.”

Councillor Stuart Hughes, the council’s cabinet member for highways said: “The Met Office has increased its alert level and Storm Eunice will make travelling conditions quite perilous for much of Friday morning and we are advising if you can avoid travelling, please do so.

“The forecast of such strong winds may well lead to fallen trees or branches, and other debris. If you must travel, please take extra care, particularly when it’s dark when it’s more difficult to see debris on the road.

“To prepare for this, extra people are being drafted in to staff our network operations control centre and highways teams and tree surgeons will be on standby.

“If possible, postpone your journey until conditions improve and if you do have to travel, slow down, allow extra time for your journey and drive according to the conditions. Keep an eye on travel updates and weather forecasts and please plan your journey.”

Met Office chief meteorologist Frank Saunders added: “After the impacts from Storm Dudley for many on Wednesday, Storm Eunice will bring damaging gusts in what could be one of the most impactful storms to affect southern and central parts of the UK for a few years.”

“The red warning area indicates a significant danger to life as extremely strong winds provide the potential for damage to structures and flying debris.”

The council is also reminding people to be alert to fallen trees and branches, particularly on minor roads where they may not have been reported, and to never drive through floodwater or swollen flowing water.

It says to allow extra time for journeys, reduce speed and to “drive with care and according to the conditions.”

Great Western Railway, which operates the majority of services in Devon including the mainline to Penzance, said it expects to cut services by half and where long-distance trains can operate journey times will be “significantly longer.”

It warned some branch lines in Devon will have to close, and where bus replacement services are able to operate, they too will be affected by very poor road conditions, possible road closures, and are likely to be very busy.

Disruption is likely to continue into the weekend, therefore people with tickets for travel on Friday, February18 are being allowed to use them on Thursday, February 17 through to and including Monday, February 21.

Red weather warnings are rarely issued by the Met Office, with the last one coinciding with Storm Arwen in November 2021, but you’d have to go back to March 2018 for the last red warning for wind before that.

The county council will provide the latest travel updates on Twitter: @DevonAlert and via: www.devon.gov.uk/news .

Ollie Heptinstall