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Abigail, First British Storm Ever Named, Slams Scotland, Ireland

Abigail, the first storm ever named, hurricane-style, by the British weather agency, arrived late at night with hurricane-force winds.
IMAGE: Storm Abigail
People struggle with umbrellas as they arrive for the Scottish Business Awards in Edinburgh, Scotland, as Storm Abigail sweeps across Britain on Thursday night.PA Wire/PA Images

Abigail — the first storm ever named, hurricane-style, by the British weather agency — slammed Scotland and Ireland overnight Thursday with hurricane-force winds and the threat of an entire month's rainfall in just 48 hours.

Abigail struck earlier than Britain's Met Office (formerly the Meteorological Office) had predicted, closing schools, shutting ferry services and canceling flights.

Flood warnings were issued primarily in Scotland and the Northern Isles, where powerful wind gusts were sluicing heavy rain almost sideways.

But heavier-than usual rain was forecast across Britain south to Wales, and the western Ireland counties of Clare, Galway, Mayo and Sligo registered winds hitting 75 mph, the Irish Independent reported Friday morning.

The agency said some northern areas could get as much as 8 inches of rain by Saturday — about the historical average for all of November.

But "it's the wind we're really worried about," said Kirsty McCabe, senior U.K. meteorologist for The Weather Channel, who said sustained winds of 70 mph were expected, with gusts approaching 90 mph. She said the storm could "cause damage, disrupt transport and even power supplies."

Paul Gunderson, the Met's chief operational meteorologist, said the storm was also generating unusual lightning in addition to the pummeling winds.

The worst risk is expected overnight and Friday morning when high tide converges with the storm surge. The Met warned that waves up to 11 meters — about 36 feet — could lash Scotland's western coast Friday morning.

Caledonian MacBrayne, Scotland's main inter-island ferry service, said 24 of its 26 routes were disrupted Thursday.

"The sea conditions we are expecting could well be too treacherous to sail in," said Drew Collier, the company's operations director. "I would urge people to factor this in when making travel plans."

A second named storm could be on the way next week, as the remnants of Hurricane Kate arrive. It would be named Barney — one of 21 names selected by the Met and its Irish counterpart, Met Eirann, from public submissions this summer in a bid to raise Britons' preparedness.

IMAGES: UK storm names
New U.K. storm names.Courtesy Met Office