Heavy storms disrupted air, sea and road transport in Britain, while a cargo ship was swept onto a beach in France and one person reported missing, emergency officials said.
GALLERY: Storms lash Britain and France
Dozens of flights were cancelled at British airports, including London's Heathrow, due to the storms, described as possibly the biggest of the winter by experts, local reports said.
Belgium was also braced for the tempest, expected to last until tomorrow, with forests bordering Brussels closed to traffic for fear of trees being felled by the winds.
Amid gale-force winds of up to 130 kmh sweeping in from the Atlantic and driving rain, British coastguards scrambled to help a stricken tanker in the Channel off the southern English coast, a spokesman said.
Airports were among the worst hit, with cancellations and delays brought on by precautionary measures taken by air traffic controllers.
"We have had to cancel some short-haul flights and there are likely to be delays to all services," said a British Airways spokesman.
British prime minister Gordon Brown had to cancel a planned meeting with Slovak prime minister Robert Fico after his flight from Bratislava was cancelled due to the bad weather.
The storm hit first in Cornwall and Devon in the south-west of the country, before sweeping east across England and Wales.
On land there was widespread disruption on trains in southern England, including London, where underground train services were also hit by flooding, while fallen trees were reported in a number of places, disrupting road traffic.
About 30 people were rescued when a beachfront caravan park was flooded by seawater, which breached defences near Chichester, on the English south coast, a local coastguard spokesman said.
At sea, the main Channel port of Dover closed as winds of up to 130 km/h hit the south coast, preventing ferries from operating. It re-opened briefly during a lull in the weather, but was then shut again by day's end.
Further west a Swedish tanker with 13 crew on board got into difficulties off the Isle of Wight, coastguards said.
Two coastguard tugs were sent to help the stricken 11,000-tonne vessel, the Astral. "The weather is horrendous at the moment," said a spokesman.
Brown held talks with emergency services chiefs on Sunday night, ahead of the widely forecast tempest.
The storm was described as a "potent cocktail of strong winds, wave action and high tides from tonight until Wednesday" by Simon Hughes of the Environment Agency.
The agency issued seven severe flood warnings, along with 44 flood warnings, while Britain's Meteorological Office put severe weather warnings in place for all of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In France, meanwhile, an 88-metre-long cargo vessel, the Artemis, ran aground on a beach at Sables-d'Olonne, on the Atlantic west coast, according to the local government office.
Slightly further north, in Brittany, a search resumed for a 26-year-old man missing since yesterday after falling in the sea in Relecq-Kerhuon, near the port city of Brest.
Elsewhere the first stage of the classic Paris-Nice cycle race south of Paris was shortened due to heavy winds.
"We haven't had one this strong this year," said Emmanuel Bocri, a forecaster for Meteo France, adding: "In general there are one or two of this strength each winter."
WEATHER NOTES03/11/08 -- 09:40 AM By David Hubler Science Applications International Corp. has won a five-year task order from the General Services Administration to provide information technology services to the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command at Stennis Space Center, Miss.
The task order, awarded under the Millennia governmentwide acquisition contract by GSA’s Southeast Sunbelt Region 4, has a one-year base and four one-year options with a maximum value of $48 million if all options are exercised.
Under the award, SAIC said it will provide a broad range of IT services to support the command’s operations and maintenance, manage and integrate complex systems and facilities, and help integrate systems users into a shared environment. The SAIC team will deliver systems engineering, computer operations and facility management services and solutions.
The command, which began in the 1840s as the Depot of Charts and Instruments, a repository for nautical charts and navigational equipment, is responsible for ensuring the safety, speed and operational effectiveness of the Navy at sea by tracking weather and oceanographic phenomena. The various programs were integrated into a single command in the 1970s.
SAIC has been providing similar services to the command since 2004, said Randy Cash, senior vice president and business unit general manager at SAIC.
SAIC’s team includes WareOnEarth Communication Inc., a Charleston, S.C., small business that provides information security and IT services. It will assist SAIC in planning and setting policies for managing information assurance programs. The company also has offices in San Diego; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Aberdeen, Md.; and McLean, Va.
JJ Pronk has a interesting photo collection of ships in heavy weather.
Riverdance ferry floatation trench
By Rob Stocks
A HUGE trench has been dug alongside the beached ferry Riverdance ahead of a bid to right the ship.The 6,000 tonne roll-on roll-off ferry has been stranded on the sands at Anchorsholme since she ran aground in bad weather at the end of January.
Preparations are now being made to correct her list of more than 90 degrees, including the digging of the trench.
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Tony Redding, of Seatruck Ferries, which operated the Riverdance, said; "We are excavating around the boat to make it easier to move her.
"If you are going to try and right her, you need to have somewhere for her to go.
"This will hopefully make the operation much easier."
Huge containers have also been welded to the port side of the ship to assist in the righting operation.
Mr Redding said: "These are containers which can be filled with water to help bring her level.
"It is all about fine tuning and control.
"We are putting everything in place to make sure we have the best possible chance of bringing her off the beach."
Seatruck and the Dutch salvage team working on the Riverdance had been hoping to right the ship on Thursday.
They are now waiting to see whether severe weather will delay the effort.
Mr Redding said: "It very much depends on the weather.
"We would like to go ahead but if the conditions are like they are in the South West right now, things may not happen.
"We will just have to wait and see what the weather brings."
Coastguard officials have said the salvage operation is going well.
They have no major concerns over the Riverdance despite continued warnings of strong winds.
A spokesman said: "We don't believe the ship is in any danger of moving."
NOAA – ocean observation
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a notice stating that comments on the Integrated Ocean Observing System Strategic Plan should be submitted by April 4. 73 Fed. Reg. 12955 (March 11, 2008).