BRIGHTON, England - Britons are bracing for a massive storm that's spurring officials to curtail Monday rail, air and road transportation.
The storm, expected to bring gale-force wind of up to 80 mph across the coastal, southern half of the country, prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron to head an emergency planning meeting Sunday as Britons were urged to prepare for what the Met Office has said "isn't a storm you would see every year."
Forecasters have warned that the hurricane-strength storm - nicknamed St. Jude after the patron saint of lost causes (Monday is the saint's feast day) - could cause downed trees, structural damage, flooding and severe disruption to transportation services.
Heavy rains and strong winds began lashing the country Sunday. Ahead of the storm, a 14-year-old boy was feared drowned after playing in the surf with a friend in east Sussex.
At least 60 Monday flights at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports were canceled, while rail operators were planning to curtail train operations. Eurostar trains to Paris from London were also facing the prospect of long delays. Some bridges and roads prone to flooding will also be closed.
In a Sunday tweet, Cameron said he held the call so that he could be informed by "various Govt depts & agencies to hear all about the plans to ensure people are protected."
The intense low pressure system is expected to begin pummeling parts of Britain's exposed coast from late Sunday local time, before strengthening overnight and into Monday morning.
The full force of the weather system is then expected to diminish as it moves in a north-easterly direction across the lower-third of the British Isles, the Met Office said. Heavy rains and surface water floods are expected to accompany the storm.
"While this is a major storm for the U.K., we don't currently expect winds to be as strong as those seen in the 'Great Storm' of 1987 or the 'Burns Day storm' of 1990," said Martin Young, the Met Office's chief forecaster.
"This weather system is typical of what we expect to see in winter but as it's coming in during autumn - when trees are in leaf - and while the ground is fairly saturated, it does pose some risks. We could see some uprooted trees," Young said, as authorities here decided to not take any chances with weather warnings.
The Environment Agency said Sunday that, "Seafronts, quaysides, jetties should be avoided due to the risk of overtopping by waves and wind blown shingle."
In 1987, more than 20 people were killed as gale-force winds ripped through the English Channel causing extensive damage to parts of England and France. More than 90 people died as a result of the Burns Day Storm in 1990, one of the strongest on record in Europe, as gusts of 104 mph swept over northwest Europe on the birthday of the Scottish poet Robert Burns.