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Severe weather kills two and causes huge travel disruption

A MAN and a woman have died in river incidents and thousands of people face travel chaos trying to make it home for Christmas as strong gales and torrential rain batter the UK.

The weather caused problems across the UK but didn't deter reindeer, dogs, motorists or shoppers from getting out.
The weather caused problems across the UK but didn't deter reindeer, dogs, motorists or shoppers from getting out.

Shoppers continued to brave the storms yesterday, with stores reporting record sales, but the last-minute rush and gale-force winds meant many faced gridlock as they tried to reach out-of-town and city-centre retailers.

As the weather in Scotland worsened, the forecast for today was upgraded to an "amber" alert - the second highest danger level - in some regions of the Highlands and Strathclyde. Some areas are expected to be blasted by storm force winds of up to 90mph which could disrupt travel and power supplies.

The rest of Scotland will be hit by winds of up to 75mph, while yellow warnings for ice are in place for the whole country.

The Forth Road Bridge is expected to be closed to all vehicles except cars today due to the high winds and motorists are urged to delay their journeys until this evening if possible as there is a "significant possibility" the crossing will be closed completely. Conditions are expected to improve later in the day.

The severe weather in the south of England has already led to the cancellation of a number of rail services and Emma Compton, a forecaster at the Met Office, said the disruption to transport could be "quite severe".

Two deaths were reported south of the Border. A man's body was pulled from the River Rothay in Ambleside, Cumbria, and yesterday afternoon a woman was found dead in a river at Nant Ffrancon in Wales. The Environment Agency also issued a severe flood warning in the South West due to "extremely dangerous" conditions - the highest level of alert that warns there is "danger to life".

Figures from Sainsbury's Bank suggested 17.5 million have left some present-buying to the last minute and would be doing some on Christmas Eve.

Gary Turnbull, general manager of intu Braehead, said people had queued up before opening for the past three days and some people were still shopping at midnight.

Glasgow city centre was mobbed with last minute shoppers, including one motorist who said it had taken him two hours to make his way from the eighth floor of the Buchanan Galleries car park to the exit.

Downpours on Sunday led rainwater to leak into the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, forcing curators to temporarily remove two works. No paintings were damaged and the gallery remains open as normal until 5pm today.

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