The Met Office has warned Storm Hector poses a “threat to life” as “unseasonably strong” 70mph winds batter Northern Ireland.
The weather forecaster is predicting gales of 60mph to hit Scotland and the north of England, including Cheshire, where the Queen and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex are visiting today.
Meghan, 36, who married the Queen’s grandson Princes Harry, 33, last month is opening Runcorn’s Mersey Gateway Bridge and the Storehouse Theatre with the 92-year-old head of monarch.
It will be the duchess’s first royal engagement without her husband.
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The Queen and the Meghan may have to flee for cover as a Met Office weather warning is in place for the region until 3pm this afternoon.
Both royals will be inside for most parts of their visit but are expected to walk on foot a few hundred feet from the Storehouse Theatre for a lunch at Chester Town Hall during the late morning.
Gusts of 60mph are expected to pummel the north-west around this time.
The latest weather maps show the storm has made landfall this morning but will be at its height just before lunchtime.
A Met Office yellow weather warning says: “The strongest winds will reach Northern Ireland during the early hours of Thursday before spreading eastwards across other northern parts of the UK during the morning.
“Westerly winds are likely to gust between 50 and 60 mph in many areas and possibly around 70 mph in some exposed locations.”
Bookmakers have slashed odds on wind speed reaching 100mph, now at 2/1.
Jessica Bridge of Ladbrokes said: “Storm Hector’s playing havoc with June’s gorgeous weather of late.
“Sadly it’s looking increasingly likely that the impending gales will be the strongest the country has seen in many decades.”
Ladbrokes also has odds of 4/6 for winds to reach 70mph.
Meteorologist Aiden McGivern earlier warned of travel disruption in large swathes of the north during the rush hour.
He said: “That swathe of strong winds will continue for three hours or so, pushing its way northeastwards across Scotland and parts of northern England as well and these winds, whilst not unheard of in the middle of June are fairly unusual and certainly not something we have seen a great deal of recently.”
“Disruption is likely during the early morning rush hour across Northern Ireland and then during the rest of Thursday morning and into the afternoon across Scotland and northern England with 50 to 60 locally 70 miles per hour gusts in places.”
People are being advised to watch out for fallen trees and potential power cuts.
Conditions will calm down this afternoon with Wales and south England escaping the worst of the weather.
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