THE New Year continued with a blast last night as forecasters predicted 80mph winds and flooding.

Weather monitors said Storm Eleanor posed the biggest threat to coastal towns in the south west of the country, with the worst conditions set to continue until around 6pm today.

The Met Office cautioned the public to brace for power cuts, public transport disruption and interruption to mobile phone signals.

It also said waves could pose a danger to life in the worst-hit areas.

Yellow warnings also extended to Northern Ireland and parts of England, with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) expressing “particular concern” about the potential for flooding to communities around the Solway Firth. Ayrshire and Arran, the Moray Firth and areas around the inner Firth of Forth were also said to be at risk.

Duty hydrology manager Vincent Fitzsimons said that SEPA was expecting coastal flooding in the South West of Scotland overnight last night, into this morning and this afternoon.

He added: “The peak of the flooding is expected around high-tide midnight tonight, and then again early afternoon [today].”

“The key concern is for a cluster of communities between the Isle of Whithorn and Kirkcubright.

“In these areas we are expecting coastal flooding of properties, roads and other infrastructure.”

The Met Office weather warning stated: “The strong winds may clip southern Scotland, with continued uncertainty in the northern extent.

“Further south, severe gales affect western and southern coasts this evening and overnight, with a very squally feature bringing a short spell of intense rainfall and very strong gusts to some inland localities.

“[This afternoon] sees a very blustery day, with squally gusts accompanying showers in many areas.

“Gusts of 60-70 mph are likely along exposed coasts, with the more exposed locations seeing gusts close to 80 mph.”

Bookmaker Coral is giving odds-on at 10-11 that the wind speed reaches as high as 100mph in mainland UK this week, with the firm also offering odds of 3-1 for this month to end as the wettest January ever and 6-4 for it to be the coldest the UK has seen.

Spokesman John Hill said: “With the cold snap set to continue and more rain forecast, we have taken a flurry of bets for this month to end as the coldest and wettest January on record in the UK.”