Bookies slash odds on warmest Christmas Day but Storm Eva is sweeping in


Gales of up to 70mph and rain squalls will batter Britain in the run up to December 25 as Storm Eva sweeps in to lash western reaches tomorrow night and into Christmas Eve.

The bad weather has prompted weather warnings from the Met Office and fears of further flooding in the North, as well as concerns about effects on transport and communication links.

Flood warnings are in place across large swathes of the North West, Wales and the North East, with threats unlikely to abate before Christmas Day.

And while temperatures will fall slightly in the coming days, in the majority of areas it will remain far from cool, with temperatures still in double figures - dashing hopes for a white Christmas as forecasters predict a grey, wet and windy day for most of the UK.

Today was the equal mildest winter solstice since records began, with the 16.1C (61F) recorded at Writtle in Essex matching the record set at Hoylake, Merseyside on December 22 1910.

Bookmakers have slashed their odds on it being the warmest Christmas Day ever, but forecasters believe temperatures on Friday may peak at around 13C (55F), more than 2C below the record.

The Met Office said: "After the mild, unsettled start to December it looks likely that this theme will continue through until the end of the year with some spells of windy, wet weather but also drier, brighter periods with some showers.

"Although temperatures will remain above average, there will be some cooler days and nights with wintry showers possible over hills and mountains in the north of the UK and some overnight frosts.

"Going into Christmas Eve, a low pressure system to the north west of the UK will bring a spell of wet and windy weather for most, with gales or severe gales in the north west of the UK and perhaps locally storm force winds over parts of the Outer Hebrides."

Claire Austin, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, said temperatures would dip to 12C (54F) or 13C (55F) tomorrow from today's high - still mild for this time of year.

She said: "It will be breezy tomorrow but in the evening it will pick up in the North West, bringing rain. This will hit most western areas by Christmas Eve morning before sweeping eastwards."

Gales will reach 60mph in parts of Wales overnight into Christmas Eve, reaching 70mph in the Western Isles. Gusts will reach up to 60mph in Scotland, 50mph in Wales and 30-40mph in more central and eastern areas, forecasters predict.

Temperatures on Thursday will be similar to tomorrow, reaching around 13C (55F) in the South East and 6C (43F) to 7C (45F) in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Ms Austin said.

Christmas Day itself will see a band of rain coming in from the South West in the morning, pushing through to affect the rest of England, Wales and Northern Ireland throughout the day. It will remain breezy, but gusts are expected to drop to no more than 35mph.

The only likelihood of a white Christmas is in the mountains of Scotland, forecasters suggest.

Ms Austin said: "It looks like the warmest place on Christmas Day will be the tip of Cornwall, which will see around 13C (55F). Devon will reach around 12C (54F), and it will get cooler going north.

"The warmest Christmas Days ever were 15.6C (60F), twice - once in Edinburgh in 1896 and again in Killerton, Devon, in 1920. It is probably not going to reach that this year, but it will still be very mild for this time of year."

The forecast has not deterred bookmakers from predicting the warmest Christmas Day ever.

Coral has cut its odds to evens (from 2-1), and has it odds-on at 1-2 that this December will be warmest since records began.

Spokesman John Hill said: "The odds suggest we are set for the hottest Christmas Day and December on record. We are hardly seeing any bets on a white Christmas as most punters are looking to back record temperature highs."

The company is still betting on there being snow in the UK on Christmas Day, with odds at 7-4.