Kent's nightmare before Christmas as county battered by severe storm that brings down trees and power cables
An upturned tree landed on vehicles in Hartshill Road, Northfleet
Thousands of families are without power today after Kent woke up to trees and electricity cables down following a night of gale-force winds and torrential rain.
UK Power Networks said as many as 28,500 homes in the county were without power as workers battled to restore supplies and emergency services clear roads.
Many properties and roads have been flooded around the county, with people having to abandon their cars in some areas and the Environment Agency issuing more flood alerts today.
Police said they received more than twice the normal number of calls overnight as 80mph winds hit the county.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service has received more than 600 calls since 6pm yesterday and crews are still dealing with flooding reports.
Several flood warnings also remain in force in Kent - and there is still a severe weather warning in place for rain.
Southeastern said some trains were running by 9am, but services will be severely delayed while Network Rail workers clear debris and fallen trees.
Kent Police warned motorists to beware of fallen trees obstructing many of the county's roads - including motorways, A roads and minor roads.
A fallen tree in Witham Way, Strood
A huge fallen tree blocks a path in Gravesend
Choppy waters at Dover seafront yesterday. Picture: Lewis James Anderson
Among the weather-related incidents in Kent:
- A man in his 20s was taken to hospital after becoming trapped in the river in Mace Lane, Ashford, at 1.25am today
- A lorry and five cars hit a large tree that fell across all three lanes of the London-bound section of the M20 between junctions 6 and 5 at 3.20am
- The Thanet Way was closed London-bound between Dargate and Brenley Corner due to fallen trees
- The Port of Dover reopened at about 6.30am after being closed overnight, but passengers were advised to check with their ferry operator before travelling
- As many as 900 passengers were stuck on P&O's Spirit of Britain ferry outside Dover for 14 hours as it was considered too dangerous to enter Dover harbour
- The QEII Bridge at the Dartford Crossing and the Sheppey Crossing reopened at 5am and 7am after being closed on Monday afternoon
The weather has also caused structural damage to properties. A 20ft wall collapsed in Cooks Lane, Sittingbourne at just before midnight - narrowly missing a man.
And the side of a house collapsed in Sydenham Street, Whitstable at 3.40pm yesterday, but no one was injured.
Scroll down for video
Edenbridge High Street under water
Serious flooding by the river in Otford. Picture: Philip Dodd
Tonbridge Park under water. Picture: Sunshine Parties
Chief Supt Alison Roden said: "We have responded to a large number of incidents during the night and continue to deal with the aftermath of the storm.
"We have been in constant touch with our emergency service partners and other agencies to ensure that the response has been co-ordinated as effectively as possible.
She added: "A number of police officers and staff have stayed on duty long after they were due to go home and I am grateful to them for showing such dedication to keeping Kent safe and getting things back to normal.
"There is also a fantastic effort to clear trees, fix power cables and sort out the flooding issues by all of the different agencies."
The aftermath of the Christmas storm that battered Kent. Video: Kiran Kaur
Police added many power cables have also been brought down and could be dangerous if touched.
People are advised to report fallen power cables to the UK Power Networks emergency number on 0800 783 8866.
Contractors are working to clear the roads as quickly as possible, but police advised motorists to be extra careful and to keep their speed down in case they need to stop suddenly.
The path at Rainham shopping precinct was blocked by a fallen tree
A tree narrowly avoided a house in Pelham Road, Gravesend
A fallen tree blocks Chart Hill Road in Chart Sutton. Picture: Carolyn Chapman
Kent Fire and Rescue Service said among the calls it received were from people who had driven into flood water mistaking it for a puddle - before finding the water coming up to their door windows.
Southeastern said buses will continue to replace trains between Tunbridge Wells and Robertsbridge due to a landslide of the railway embankment at Wadhurst at the weekend.
And services will start to wind down earlier than usual this evening so passengers are urged to check before they travel.
Flooded car park in Swanley. Picture: Lindsey Tierney
Road blocked in Upnor by flood water. Picture: Maria Soleil
Fence panel down in Tonbridge. Picture: Charlotte Spencer
The Highways Agency - which has issued an amber warning for rain - said drivers of high-sided vehicles, and others affected by strong winds, should also avoid the:
- A2 Jubilee Way near Dover
Police urged people heading out on the roads to:
- carry provisions (warm, waterproofing clothing, food, water, a mobile phone if possible and a torch) and make sure you have enough fuel for their journey
- use the appropriate lights or wear high visibility clothing - poor weather conditions mean it can be harder for drivers to see pedestrians and cyclists
- adapt driving for different weather conditions - in the wet, fog and ice, keep well back from the car in front, slow down and use appropriate lights
- keep your vehicle in good working order - make sure brakes and lights work, fluid levels are topped up and your windscreen is clear before you set off.
For all the latest travel news, listen to kmfm
Met Office forecasters predicted the strongest would be across the south, with coastal routes particularly affected.
Up to 60mm of rain could fall in some areas, posing problems where the ground is already saturated. This will also bring the risk of road surface water and river flooding.
It said the public should be aware of the potential for significant disruption to travel with the possibility of flooding in some areas.
Drivers endured difficult driving conditions on Bob Dunn Way in Dartford
A fallen tree crushes a car in Witham Way, Strood
Parks across Kent saw trees felled, including Rainham's Cozenton Park
Properties in Horsmonden, Yalding, Goudhurst and Lamberhurst were warned to expect flooding following rising water levels on the River Teise.
Teams from The Environment Agency were deployed to clear watercourses, but the agency said some properties were expected to flood.
The River Medway at Allington Lock is on alert after rainfall between 50-60mm overnight.
Levels are predicted to rise throughout the day and forecast to peak on Christmas Day.
The rivers Eden and Eden Brook were expected to peak at Edenbridge around noon today and at Hever later this afternoon before receding on Christmas Day.
There is also an alert for the River Bourne between Hadlow and East Peckham.
A Mini tackles heavy floods in Mallards Way, in Downswood, Maidstone
John McTaggart, the Highways Agency's head of on-road services, said: "Road users are urged to check traffic and weather conditions before setting out on journeys and to heed any advice such as speed restrictions once they are on the strategic road network.
"Be aware of sudden gusts of wind, and give high-sided vehicles, caravans, motorbikes and bicycles plenty of space.
"In the event of persistent high winds we may need to close certain bridges to traffic for a period, so please be alert for warnings of closures and follow the clearly signed diversion routes."
- Click here for more news from across the county