Britain battens the hatches for 'St. Jude's storm'

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LONDON — Driving rains and high winds lashed the U.K. on Sunday evening, as officials warned that the storm forecasters are calling one of the worst in years will disrupt morning commutes.

Officials said a 14-year-old boy is feared dead after being swept out to sea while apparently playing in the surf in southern England. Coastguard and police rescuers searched late Sunday for the boy in high seas with poor visibility, but after several hours the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it had turned into a search and recovery operation.

Sussex Police urged people to stay clear of the shore until the storm -- dubbed St. Jude and #Stormageddon on social networks -- abates.

With winds expected to pick up over night and early today, railways and airports cancelled many services amid warnings of treacherous roads, debris falling from trees and flooding.

Prime Minister David Cameron told agencies to ensure contingency plans were in place for transportation, schools and power supplies during the storm, which could have gusts stronger than 80 mph -- akin to those in hurricanes.

Britain does not get hurricanes due to its geography.

Martin Young, the Met Office's chief forecaster, said that while the storm is "major" for the U.K., its winds are not expected to be as strong as those seen in the "Great Storm of 1987," which saw gusts of 115 mph and killed 18 people.

The storm is expected to move across the country and head out over the North Sea by this afternoon.

Once the "St. Jude's storm" — named after the patron saint of lost causes, whose feast day is today — passes through Britain, it is expected to hit the Nordic countries this afternoon.

The Danish Meteorological Institute issued a warning, saying winds of hurricane strength are expected in some parts of Denmark and heightened water levels in western Jutland.

The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute also issued a warning, saying it expects hurricane-strength winds to hit southern and western Sweden this evening, potentially causing damage.