LONDON (AP) — Hurricane-force gusts hit Scotland on Thursday, causing a fatal truck accident, halting all trains and leaving tens of thousands of homes without electricity. Much of northwestern Europe braced for a storm that was expected to bring flooding to coastal areas.
Winds of to 142 miles (229 kilometers) per hour were measured overnight in the Scottish Highlands, and many roads and bridges were closed. All train services in Scotland were suspended; Network Rail spokesman Nick King said that "there's too much debris and too much damage to equipment to continue."
The British government's crisis committee met to discuss its response to a storm that threatened to cause tidal surges flooding as many as 6,000 homes.
A truck driver was killed and four people were injured in an accident west of Edinburgh when high winds toppled his vehicle onto several cars, police said.
A number of flights serving Scotland were also canceled, and power companies said up to 100,000 homes were without electricity. Another 7,000 homes were reported without power in Northern Ireland.
Glasgow's central rail station was evacuated after debris smashed glass in the roof, though no one was hurt.
Weather forecasters predicted winds gusting up to 87 miles (140 kilometers) per hour on Germany's North Sea coast. Britain's Environment Agency said tidal surges could bring "significant" coastal flooding, and the Thames Barrier was being closed later Thursday to protect London.
Hundreds of homes in Great Yarmouth, on the Norfolk coast 130 miles (209 kilometers) northeast of London, were evacuated as a precaution against tidal surges. The Environment Agency issued more than 250 flood alerts across England and Wales, including 28 "severe" warnings of significant threats to life.
Ferry operators canceled services to some of Germany's North Sea islands and the country's national railway, Deutsche Bahn, warned of likely disruption across a swathe of northern Germany.
Train services in Denmark and the Netherlands were suspended after 1300 GMT.
By early afternoon German authorities reported flooding on the tiny low-lying North Sea islands of Langeness and Hooge near Denmark, the DPA news agency reported. Residents protected their homes with sandbags and other barriers against the rising waters, but none of the houses — all built on raised foundations — were thought to be in immediate danger.
Still, Langeness mayor Heike Hinrichsen warned that if the seas rose as high as predicted as the storm moves in, the "waves of the North Sea will be lapping at the houses."
"Nobody on the islands will be closing their eyes tonight," said Langeness resident Fiede Nissen. "It's already tense."
In Belgium, the coastal town of Bredene to evacuate hundreds of people from one neighborhood well before the worst of the storm hits.
"There is no reason for panic yet, but Bredene is anticipating serious flooding problems. The situation can be much more serious than we could have expected this morning," the city said in a statement.
The Netherlands braced for the storm by closing water barriers that protect the low-lying country from high tides. The Oosterscheldekering in the southwestern delta region of the country was being closed to protect the land behind it for the first time since 2007.
National carrier KLM canceled dozens of flights to European airports as a precaution.
Passengers on an easyJet flight from London to Glasgow, Scotland, wound up landing in Manchester after aborted attempts to land in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
As the plane neared Scotland, "suddenly everything started shaking and bumping, we were going up and down, up and down," said a passenger, Hazel Bedford.
"An awful lot of people were being sick but the plane, it was incredibly quiet. When cabin crew said 'we're going to Manchester', people started to realize this was serious," she said.
The airline said a number of passengers chose to return to London by bus.
The German Weather Service said the storm front, which was gathering strength as it headed eastward from the Atlantic Ocean off Greenland, would also bring polar air to Europe — meaning that it could bring snow to low-lying areas.
AP writer David Rising in Berlin contributed to this story