FEROCIOUS winds are continuing to batter Britain today, causing damage and disruption - and the North East has been warned to brace itself for snow.
Yesterday, storms left a trail of destruction across Wearside as gales blowing at up to 60mph hit the region.
Gable ends of homes came crashing down, while streets were left strewn with slates, drain pipes and debris from roofs and gardens across Sunderland and East Durham.
Sunderland City Council was called to Rutland Street after a brick wall fell down and blocked the pavement.
Lynn Nicholson, 39, and husband Peter, 46, woke to find the end of their Gentoo rented home in Runcorn Road, Red House, in bits in their side alley, while a home a few doors away also lost a section of its gable end.
Lynn, who works at Sunderland Royal as a specialist dental nurse, said: “We heard a bang and woke up in the early hours and didn’t know what it was at the time.
“We couldn’t see anything, so we thought it had been the bins.
“We went back to bed and went to sleep, and then were woken at 5.30am with the fire brigade banging on the door.
“They’d been called to two doors up and had a look around to see if anyone else’s had come down and they saw ours. I was quite shocked when I saw all the bricks.
“The fire brigade phoned for the engineers and we rang Gentoo and they got someone out straight away.”
In Seaham, the gable end of a terrace home came down just feet away from an entrance to New Seaham Academy, minutes before children began to arrive during the school run.
Durham County Council cordoned off the area, while the emergency services were also called to the scene.
Vicki Hulley, 27, who lives in East View, which looks on to Seaham Town Park, had got up for the day with her two children.
She said: “I heard a big bang as I came down the stairs and brought the baby down with me, and then a builder who was working down the street came and knocked on the door and he told me what had happened.
“I was in shock and I didn’t know what to expect. I was more worried about my children, especially living on my own.
“I would have been out there myself if it had happened at 8.25am, but it happened at 7.30am.”
Her landlord Tom Lloyd, who runs Automated Alarms, quickly arrived to deal with the damage.
The 58-year-old said: “My tenant rang at 7.45am and said the wall had blown down and the police were there.
“I’m amazed there wasn’t a car parked there. It’s a good job it wasn’t later, at school time.
“If that had happened later, it would have been absolutely terrible, it just doesn’t bear thinking about.”
A section of wall in Chaplin Street also came down, with Durham County Council called to help clear the area.
High winds also caused transport misery.
Rail services were hit, leading Northern Rail to halt its 6.12am service between Hexham and Middlesbrough, which calls at Sunderland and Seaham, after an obstruction on the line.
Metro trains between South Hylton and Pelaw were also hit after the line was blocked shortly before 7am yesterday, but were back up and running by 10.45am with delays.
The A1(M) was closed between Carrville and Chester-le-Street from about 8am, when a shed being transported on the back of a lorry on the northbound carriageway was blown off and onto the southbound route.
Traffic heading in both directions was diverted as the road was closed off and cleared, with the route shut off until early afternoon.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service was also called to Sea Road in Fulwell, after advertising hoardings blew down at 5am, while cars were left damaged in Ryhope Road after a trampoline was blown into the street, just after 7am.
About a dozen trees were felled by gusts including one in St Luke’s Road, in Ford Estate.
National Rail warned of fresh travel misery today, with train services throughout Scotland into the north of England widely disrupted due to “poor weather conditions”.
Weather experts said today’s gales will be accompanied by snow, with yellow “be prepared” weather alerts in place for the North East.
Met Office forecaster Alex Burkill said: “As we go through Saturday morning a band of squally rain will move south eastwards, and that’s going to bring brighter but much colder conditions behind it.
“Some showers are likely to be heavy, and may well fall as sleet or snow, particularly in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England.
“Some of the showers could bring significant accumulations, particularly over higher ground.
“We could widely see 2cm to 4cm (up to 1.5ins) of snow, and perhaps 8cm (just over 3ins) on the highest ground.
“That could cause major disruption to travel, so there are yellow warnings in place for affected areas.”