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Storm Barbara: Northern UK to face worst of Christmas travel mess, power cuts

By Courtney Spamer, AccuWeather meteorologist
By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
December 22, 2016, 1:13:49 PM EST

Storm Barbara will target the United Kingdom on Friday, causing widespread disruptions to early Christmas travel.

Another windstorm will threaten the U.K., especially northern areas, on Christmas Day.

Each of these storms will hit with winds at or above 50 mph (80 km/h). Rainy spells are expected, with a mix of snow in the northern hills, during the Christmas weekend.

The first and strongest windstorm, named Barbara, will arrive on Friday. The northern U.K. will endure the heaviest rain, strongest winds and greatest impacts to travel.

Feature graphic hd23


"The rain and wind from Barbara will bring the potential for major transport delays around this busy travel time," AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys said.

Although the northern part of the U.K. will face the brunt of the storm, flight delays across the country could trickle to other parts of Europe.

Rail service could also be disrupted due to the strong winds and downpours. Tree damage and power cuts are likely as well.

"Rain from Barbara will spread from northwest to southeast across the U.K. on Friday into Friday evening with the heaviest falling from Wales northward," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said.

Even if flooding does not ensue, any downpours will create issues for motorists by reducing visibility and heightening the risk of vehicles aquaplaning when traveling at motorway speeds.

UK Friday wind 12/22


Storm Barbara will deliver wind gusts over 75 mph (120 km/h) in northern Scotland, creating further travel hazards.

As the winds howl, bridges could be closed, and seas will build to dangerous heights.

"Waves will build on Friday afternoon and evening to around 9 meters (30 feet) from the Outer Hebrides to the Orkney Islands," Pydynowski said.

Seas of this magnitude are likely to halt ferry service for a time.

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Fluctuating temperatures will bring wintry spells to the hills of the northern U.K. While rain can mix in or fall for a time as Barbara arrives, colder air following the storm will allow snow to settle later on Friday into Saturday. The most substantial snow will settle on the Scottish Highlands.

A slight improvement in the weather is otherwise expected on Saturday as wind and rain ease and Barbara moves to the northeast.

Saturday will still be blustery with winds holding AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures well below the day's high.

The next storm will aim at the U.K. on Saturday night into Christmas Day, not allowing for much of a break following Barbara. Once again, the northern U.K. will face the worst impacts.

Feature graphic hd29


"This second storm is likely not to be quite as potent as Barbara. However, there will still be gusts in excess of 60 mph (95 km/h) in western and northern Scotland," Pydynowski said.

This new bout of wind, rain and travel problems will arrive on Saturday night with the strongest winds to occur on Christmas Day.

"While peak gusts may fall short of equaling those recorded during Barbara, there can be just as much tree damage and power cuts with this storm," Pydynowski said.

"Any trees or power lines weakened by Barbara could easily be brought down. The winds could undo or further delay restoration work after Barbara."

Odds currently do not favor widespread flooding from the Christmas Day storm, but isolated issues may arise. That is especially true in North West England and western Scotland, where the saturated ground from Barbara may be more susceptible to flooding.

The majority of blustery showers will wait until Sunday night to reach eastern England, including London. Christmas Day will instead be mild with highs ranging from 13-15 C (55-59 F), but gusty winds will create lower RealFeel® Temperatures.

While still unnamed, the second storm has the potential to acquire the name "Conor" before reaching the U.K.

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