WEATHER experts fear Essex could be hit by hurricane-force winds as strong as those which tore down trees and damaged buildings in 1987.
The Met Office issued an amber weather warning yesterday, four days ahead of the potential storm, which is expected to hit during the rush hour on Monday morning.
Experts believe it could be the worst storm to hit the county in 26 years, with wind speeds reaching 80mph.
Councils, transport companies and the emergency services are already making preparations to deal with any problems caused by the weather.
Tom Defty, from the Essex Weather Centre, said: “Our forecasts expect it will manifest over the weekend. If it does, this will be the worst and strongest storm since the infamous hurricane of 1987.”
South Essex has faced severe flooding in recent months and Mr Defty is concerned this could cause trees to topple over far more easily if the high winds hit.
He added: “My concern for south Essex is, in the past two months, we have had a lot of heavy rainfall so the amount of water in the ground makes the trees very unstable and likely to fall in strong winds.
“A lot can change in the next few days, but if it does happen, people should be prepared for power cuts and train delays.
“We will continue to monitor the situation, but unfortunately we will not know for certain until Sunday.”
Normally, Atlantic storms of this type develop much further to the west of the UK and are waning in strength by the time they reach the UK and Ireland.
This storm is more unusual, developing much closer to the UK and potentially tracking across the country while still in its most powerful phase.
A strong jet stream and warm air close to the UK are both con- tributing to the development and strength of the storm.
Eddy Carroll, chief forecaster at the Met Office, said: “This storm doesn’t exist at the moment, but our forecast models predict it is likely to develop in the west Atlantic on Saturday.
“Then it’s likely to rapidly inten- sify just west of the UK late on Sunday before tracking across England and Wales early on Monday.
“There is still a chance this storm may take a more southerly track and miss the UK, but people should be aware there is a risk of severe weather and significant disruption.”
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The latest from the Essex Weather Centre says: "A intense low pressure system is forecast to run North-Eastwards across Northern parts of England early on Monday bringing the potential for an exceptionally windy spell of weather for all districts of Essex.
At this early stage there is uncertainty about the timing, intensity and track of the low. However, the public should be prepared for the risk of falling trees as well as damage to buildings and other structures, bringing disruption to transport and power supplies.
Based on the very latest model data from the Met Office, the worst of the conditions are likely to arrive during the morning rush-hour on Monday with frequent wind gusts of 40-50 miles per hour. At the same time, persistent, heavy rain could cause some surface water flooding."