A rare ‘red’ level warning - the Met Office’s highest alert - has been issued for Lancashire and Cumbria as potentially life-threatening winds are recorded.
Forecasters say coastal areas of the North West were “likely to bear the brunt” as westerly winds widely gust to 80mph, and possibly 100mph, in the most exposed locations.
The ‘red’ level alert is in force until 9pm on Wednesday night. Such warnings are only issued when people need to “take action” because of severe weather.
Network Rail said the West Coast Main Line would be shut between 7-9pm between Preston and Penrith because of the conditions.
Winds of up to 77mph are expected to hit the Morecambe and Lancaster area, peaking tonight with heavy rain which is also forecast.
Gusts will be strong enough to topple power lines, trees and damage buildings, forecasters say.
The Environment Agency has issued flood alerts for the coastline from Heysham to Carnforth, North Morecambe Bay, Barrow and the Lune estuary after 10pm tonight.
A spokesman for Morecambe fire station said crews were expecting a busy afternoon as a vigorious area of low pressure moves across northern parts of the UK.
Lancashire County Council said it was gearing up to keep the county moving if roads become blocked and urged people to consider the conditions before travelling.
Motorists are asked to only drive if journeys are essential.
The afternoon Heysham to Isle of Man ferry crossings have been cancelled due to the weather warnings.
The 7.45pm Douglas to Heysham crossing is under review with a final decision to be made at 4pm today.
The 2.15am Thursday Heysham to Douglas ferry could also be affected. People are advised to check with ports before travelling.