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Worst storm of winter lashes southern Britain

Winds topping 80 mph battered Britain's southern coasts on Monday, uprooting trees, downing power lines and shutting several busy ports.
Britain Stormy Weather
A lone man watches waves crash against the walls of the historic Cobb at Lyme Regis in Dorset, southern England, on Monday.Chris Ison / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Winds topping 80 mph battered Britain's southern coasts on Monday, uprooting trees, downing power lines and shutting several busy ports.

The coast guard rescued a petroleum tanker that ran into trouble in a stormy English Channel.

The winter's worst storm combined with high tides and huge waves brought flooding to several towns. The Environment Agency issued 40 flood warnings across England and urged people to stay away from coastal regions which were hit by strong winds and rain.

Power companies said more than 11,000 people were without power across southwest England and Wales.

An Environment Agency spokesman called the mix of powerful winds, large waves and high tides a "potent cocktail" and said the conditions are expected to last until Wednesday.

Commuters struggled through the morning rush hour after gales roaring in from the Atlantic felled trees and damaged roofs.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said a Swedish tanker, Astral, carrying 13 crew members and a cargo of gas oil, began dragging anchor and ran aground off the Isle of Wight in the Channel.

Two coast guard tugs fought rough seas to tie a line to the vessel and tow it to its destination, an Esso oil refinery in Fawley on England's south coast.

Flights canceled and diverted
Northern England and Scotland were hit by blowing snow. Further south, commuters battled through driving rain. Train services were delayed by damaged power lines in many areas, and uprooted trees across roads added to the delays for travelers.

Heathrow Airport said 34 short-haul flights were canceled Monday morning because of the storm. Ten inbound flights to Gatwick airport south of London were diverted to other airports, including a Continental Airlines flight from Newark, N.J., which was sent to Dublin, Ireland.

Ferry traffic between Portsmouth and Bilbao in northern Spain was canceled, and the port of Dover, one of the country's busiest, was closed to shipping for several hours because of the wind.

Cargo ship aground in France
Across the Channel, a Dutch cargo ship ran aground in the Vendee region on France's west coast. Maritime officials said it was approaching the port when high winds pushed it off course.

In Belgium, winds up to 60 mph caused delays at Brussels airport and led authorities to close roads. Authorities issued a storm warning for the North Sea coast, where even stronger winds were expected.

The storm is the worst to hit southern England this year. Last month, northern Britain was battered by blizzards and 70 mph winds.

Last year, low-lying areas across England were hit by severe flooding as rivers overflowed causing millions of dollars in damage.