Sat, 08 Feb 2014 18:57 CST
The Coastguard warns of “phenomenal” 14-metre waves as 80mph winds hit the coastline of southern England
Southern Britain was on alert as hurricane-force winds and heavy rain combined with high tides threatened more flooding misery.
South Wales and the South West were the first areas to be hit by the storm, which moved over the rest of southern England during the afternoon.
The Coastguard in Brixham, Devon, said waves of up to 46ft (14m) were forecast to hit some areas.
The extreme weather also puts more pressure on inland areas including the crisis-hit Somerset Levels.
Residents there have endured weeks of rain, with many evacuated over the last 48 hours with help from the Royal Marines.
Some 1,500 military personnel remain on standby in case the storm caused significant damage.
An elderly woman was taken to hospital with serious injuries after a tree fell on to the car she was travelling in.
The woman, thought to be in her 70s, suffered a chest injury and a broken leg during the accident in Yardley, Birmingham.
Another female passenger in the car was taken to hospital with neck pain.
The Met Office has issued amber severe weather warnings – meaning “be prepared” – for rain and wind across southern England and Wales until Sunday.
The Environment Agency has two severe flood warnings in place – meaning “danger to life” – in the Somerset Levels.
A third is in place in Chiswell, Dorset, where people were warned that rough seas could breach defences and launch shingle over the promenade.
In all, there are more than 180 flood warnings – the furthest north on the River Dee close to Chester. Three hundred less serious flood alerts are in place, including five in the North East of England.
The River Thames also burst its banks in Chertsey, Surrey. A seven-year-old boy has died and two adults believed to be his parents were in a serious condition in hospital after falling ill in a house in the town on Saturday morning.
And the west country was completely cut off by rail following a landslip on the line at Crewkerne in Somerset and flooding in nearby Bridgwater and Athelney.
That comes just days after a stretch of the rail line connecting Cornwall to the rest of the country fell into the sea at Dawlish in Devon when an 80m stretch of the sea wall was destroyed by high tides.
Rail operators have put on replacement bus services and slashed ticket prices for passengers.
Official figures show last month was the wettest January since 1766.
Senior politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron – who visited Somerset on Friday – have promised affected areas will get all the help they need.
Mr Cameron admitted the decision to stop dredging the rivers Tone and Parrett in the 1990s was wrong.
Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles chaired a COBRA meeting on Saturday evening.
He said: “An additional 1,600 military personal are now on standby across the south and can be deployed rapidly if required.
“Flood ambassadors from the Environment Agency are on the ground across the country, including the Thames Valley, to offer help and practical advice to the public about the further bad weather expected.”