Bad weather forces games off
7:38pm Wednesday 12th February 2014 in © Press Association 2014
The Barclays Premier League games at Manchester City and Everton were postponed on Wednesday as severe weather battered the country and endangered fans travelling to games in the north west.
Earlier on Wednesday the Met Office issued red warnings - the highest possible - for parts of Wales and north west England in the evening.
City were preparing to welcome Sunderland to the Etihad Stadium but, with just over one hour before the scheduled 1945 kick-off, the club announced the fixture would not go ahead.
A club statement read: "Manchester City can confirm that this evening's fixture versus Sunderland has been postponed due to exceptional and escalating weather conditions.
"The safety of those in, around and travelling to the stadium complex cannot be guaranteed. This decision has been made by the Safety Officer and Greater Manchester Police.
"Both managers and the match officials understand and support this decision.
"The decision to postpone the City game was made by the stadium's Safety Officer in conjunction with police.
"A number of issues around the stadium as the wind increased in the hours leading to kick-off made the area unsafe.
"An unused programme booth blew over and part of a wall was also damaged."
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini later said the postponement at the Etihad Stadium was the sensible decision.
Pellegrini said on City's official website: "The safety of the City and Sunderland supporters is the most important thing and we understand and fully support the reasons behind the game being called off.
"We were ready to play this game but the well-being of the people coming to the Etihad is paramount. We hope everybody gets home safely, both in Manchester and Sunderland."
Everton's home meeting with Crystal Palace was next to go, with the Merseyside club citing "building damage" around Goodison Park as the deciding factor.
A tweet from the club read: "BREAKING NEWS: Tonight's game has been called off due building damage which has led to safety concerns."
While thousands of fans left the Goodison Park area in disappointment, Everton made sure one fan's 7,000-mile journey had not been a complete waste of time.
A Malaysian fan known as @ric_wee on Twitter posted a photo of himself inside the ground shortly before the postponement was announced, explaining how excited he was to realise his "dream" of watching Everton live for the first time.
'Ric' also revealed he had been an Everton supporter for 30 years.
The club's management subsequently became aware of Ric's unique situation and tracked him down in one of the stadium's lounges before introducing him to the Toffees players in their dressing room.
The club tweeted: "@ric_wee has been taken to the dressing room to meet the players.
"We're making sure, despite the disappointment, Ric gets (to) meet some of his heroes tonight."
He was pictured laughing while meeting Everton manager Roberto Martinez and defender Leighton Baines deep inside the ground.
The Spanish boss said he was fully behind the decision to postpone the game.
He told evertontv: "You do (have to take safety into account). It's the safety of the fans coming to the ground. Because of the wind there has been a lot of building damage and the last thing we want is for any of the fans to get put in a position that is dangerous.
"It is disappointing because we were ready to go out and warm up. The preparation was there for both teams and you get the anti-climax. But as everyone has seen the police have called it off and rightly so."
A League One game was also beaten by the weather as heavy rain forced the postponement of the Sheffield United v Brentford clash. The decision was taken after a pitch inspection at 1300.
Road and rail travellers have endured a miserable day with wind and rain closing major highways and wrecking train services.
There are motorway closures in the north west, notably the M60 at Barton Bridge, making travel for fans very difficult. The M6 is also shut at the Thelwall Viaduct.
Gusts of 80-100mph have disrupted train services throughout the country, with a section of the West Coast main line in Lancashire closing between 7pm and 9pm.
Virgin Trains, which operates across large parts of the UK including between London and Edinburgh, posted a message in capital letters on its official Twitter account urging "all customers to abandon travel".
Those travelling from London through the midlands and to the north west of England had to put up with speed restrictions, with passengers warned to expect their journeys to take up to 60 minutes longer than normal.