CHRISTMAS will be ruined for tens of millions of people as the worst winter storms in recorded HISTORY rip through Britain, forecasters warned today.
Hurricane-force gales and torrential downpours will lash the country at the start of Christmas week, just as 18 million people take to the roads.
Even the 4.5 million planning to travel overseas will be caught in the 'total nationwide disruption' as airports, train stations and bus networks completely shut down at the busiest time of the year.
The shock warning came as a series of 'frenzied' storm systems - which have lined up in the south Atlantic - started to charge towards Britain.
Long-range forecasters said they will cause mayhem with 90mph winds and torrential downpours causing nationwide flooding and widespread blackouts.
We could be looking at the stormiest Christmas in living memory as a succession of Atlantic depressions sweep across the UK
The horrifying onslaught is expected to start as soon as next week as violent gales sweep in and torrential downpours bring the risk of flash floods.
Jonathan Powell, forecaster for Vantage Weather Services, said: "We could be looking at the stormiest Christmas in living memory as a succession of Atlantic depressions sweep across the UK.
“There is the risk of persistent gales which could reach 90mph.
“There is also the risk of torrential downpours bringing up to two inches of rain in localised areas triggering the risk of floods.
“This looks likely to continue into the New Year and possibly into the second week of January when it will turn much colder with the risk of rain turning to snow.”
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Met Office chief forecaster Will Lang said fierce winds will begin to batter parts of the UK this weekend.
He added: “A vigorous depression is expected to run quickly northeastwards passing northwest Scotland on Saturday.
“As this happens, very strong south to southwest winds are likely to develop across much of the northern UK.
“It remains possible that more of northern England and parts of Wales could also be affected.”
The grim warnings follow predictions Britain could be facing the worst winter in decades with a major big freeze due to hit in the New Year.
Experts say temperatures are likely to plunge in January with Arctic gales and blizzards sparking chaos until the spring.
Long-range forecasting bodies say there is a chance much of the UK could be hit by a crippling big freeze with widespread snow likely.
Long range forecasts show that a high pressure ‘blocking system’ drawing cold air in from the Arctic will wreak havoc with our weather, generating prolonged spells colder than in Iceland, Norway and Sweden and even parts of the Arctic region.
Long-range forecaster James Madden, of Exacta Weather, said: “An exceptionally prolonged period of widespread cold is highly likely to develop throughout this winter and last into next spring.
“It will be accompanied by snow drifts of several feet and long-lasting snow accumulations on a widespread scale.
“This period of snow and cold is likely to result in an incomparable scenario to anything we have experienced in modern times.
“A scenario similar to December 2010 is likely to develop, but on a more prolonged scale in terms of overall duration.”
He warned of copious snowfall across the UK with “major disruption” likely on the transport networks.
He said: “The winter of 2013/14 is likely to bring another big freeze with copious snow amounts for many parts of the UK.
“There is also a high-risk scenario that we will experience a scenario similar to December 2010 or much worse at times (coldest December in 100 years), especially during the January 2014 period. “This is largely down to the period of low solar activity that we currently reside in, and how it intrinsically alters major factors factors such as ocean and jet-stream behaviour.
“This is likely to produce major disruption to the public transport network and school closures on a prolific scale, due to the adverse weather conditions that we are likely to experience in terms of consistent cold and major snow episodes, that will consist of snow drifts of several feet in depth.”
Jonathan Powell added this winter could parallel the worst winters ever recorded.
He said: “Looking back at historical data there is certainly an argument that we may well parallel with severe winters of the past including 1947 and 1962.
“We have had such a cold November, and there is no sign of any change due to a high pressure blocking system.
“When these severe temperatures bed in it becomes like an accumulative effect - like a heatwave but in reverse, we could be looking at the longest winter in history.
“And this is when you see records breaking, all signs point towards this winter being exceptionally severe, I wouldn’t put anything past it.”
A deep area of low pressure was responsible for devastating 142mph winds and the biggest se surge for 60 years which caused devastation last week.
Experts said similar furious depressions are lined up to crash into the UK over the next few weeks bringing widespread chaos.