High winds cause North East disruption

Road closed sign
Image caption The A66 was closed in both directions between Appleby and Scotch Corner

Strong winds caused problems in the North East, with the closure of one of England's main cross-country routes.

The A66 was shut between Appleby in Cumbria and through County Durham to Scotch Corner. It was reopened at about 23:00 GMT on Thursday.

Due to problems with overhead power cables, only diesel trains were running for a time north of Newcastle.

Gusts of up to 80mph (129km/h) and heavy rain also battered the region throughout Thursday evening.

In Northumberland the A69 was partially blocked by a fallen tree near Blenkinsopp Castle for a time.

Roads in Weardale were also subject to localised flooding due to melting snow and heavy rain.

The Countess of Wessex was unable to perform Billingham Forum's official opening following its £18.5m makeover, after high winds prevented her plane from taking off.

She was due to travel by train to a meeting in Durham relating to her role as patron of Sunderland Association Football Club Foundation.

Safety reasons

The windy weather also caused the cancellation of Darlington's four-day Christmas spectacular.

Although the event had taken months of planning, organisers said that under the circumstances they could not risk it going ahead.

Some of the entertainments have been moved into the indoor market, and other stalls will be added to the Christingle markets running from 15 December.

A Christmas market in Newcastle city centre which was due to run from 7 December has been cancelled, although it is hoped it can start on Friday, while South Shields festive market has been postponed until 14 December.

Gateshead's Enchanted Parks evening event, which opened on Wednesday, will not take place due to safety reasons.

Organisers said tickets would remain valid for the same time on an alternative night, yet to be reallocated, on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

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