PARIS (AFP): Heavy winds buffeted Europe’s northwestern flank on Monday, forcing road closures and disrupting rail and ferry services in southern England and prompting high wave alerts in France’s Brittany region.

In Germany, meanwhile, winter storms forced carnival organisers to cancel “Rose Monday” parades in the western cities of Duesseldorf and Mainz while scaling back festivities in Cologne, the traditional home of the annual fancy dress celebrations. Gales and heavy rain with wind speeds of nearly 100 miles per hour (155 kilometres per hour) battered southern England and Wales, with flood warnings issued in more than 50 areas.

The Environment Agency told residents that “immediate action” was required as forecasters predicted up to 40 millimetres (1.6 inches) of rain in some areas during Monday.

“We are looking to see gusts of 60-70 mph quite widely, hitting the southwest, Devon and Cornwall and moving across southern central parts towards London through the day. It is going to be picking up towards 70 miles per hour around lunchtime in London,” said Emma Sillitoe, a weather forecaster.

“We have seen 96 mph at the Needles off the Isle of Wight and gusts to 80mph are likely, especially along northern coasts of Devon and Cornwall and along the Bristol Channel as well,” she said.

Roads agency Highways England issued a severe weather alert for high-sided vehicles and motorbikes due to the high winds. Almost 5,000 homes in southwestern and central England as well as Wales have been left without power.

The lights went out in another 5,000 homes in France, where 139 kph winds pummelled Brittany’s Finistere region and the northern regions of Calvados and Manche bordering the English Channel, prompting warnings of monster waves.

“The big northwestern swell has reached the Brittany shores and the Gulf of Gascogne as expected,” the French weather service said in a statement.

No serious damage was reported but firefighters were busy in Finistere clearing felled trees or fixing power lines.

Winds were expected to subside Monday evening but the weather service said it was maintaining the high wave alert until Tuesday.