A wind gust of 122mph has been recorded on the Isle of Wight in what is thought to be a new record for England, the Met Office said.
The squall was reported at The Needles on the Isle of Wight as millions of Britons were urged to stay at home as Storm Eunice hit the UK.
Until now the record for a low-level location in England, had been 118mph at Gwennap Head in Cornwall on 15 December 1979.
The strongest gust ever recorded in the UK was 173mph at Cairngorm summit in the Highlands of Scotland in 1986.
Weather alerts were issued nationwide – including rare red warnings for wind – as the Met Office cautioned “significant gusts” could lead to flying debris endangering lives.
Storm Eunice has left thousands of homes without power and forced schools and businesses to shut.
It has also caused major travel disruption with road closures, including the M4 motorway, and the cancellation of bus and train services, flights and ferry sailings.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter: “We should all follow the advice and take precautions to keep safe.
“I thank responders for all their efforts.”
Home Office minister Damian Hinds said the Army is on “high readiness stand-by” to help.
He told Sky News: “We are strongly encouraging people to take precautions and make sure they stay safe.”
The COBRA emergency committee is due to meet this afternoon to discuss the response to the storm.
The Met Office has warned the dangerous weather phenomenon known as a sting jet – a small area of highly intense wind inside a storm – could form.
Met Office forecaster Annie Shuttleworth said: “The whole of the country will be affected by the extremely strong and damaging winds, which will cause significant disruption.
“People will see significant delays to travel and power cuts, so you should avoid travelling if you can and stay at home when winds reach the highest speeds.”
The Met Office also took the unusual step of issuing a severe weather alert with National Highways for strong winds covering the whole of the country’s strategic road network from 6am to 6pm.
National Highways said high-sided vehicles and other “vulnerable” vehicles such as caravans and motorbikes could be blown over so should avoid bridges and viaducts.
Across Ireland, more than 55,000 homes, farms and businesses were left without power in Ireland on Friday morning, as Storm Eunice battered the country, with numerous reports of fallen trees blocking roads.
Meanwhile, the Environment Agency is urging coastal communities to prepare for flooding, with Storm Eunice “coinciding with a period of spring tides and large waves”.
Further spells of heavy rain are also expected this weekend – and the current flood alerts and warnings have been issued in England:
• Ten severe flood warnings, indicating a danger to life
• 36 flood warnings, indicating that flooding is expected
• 101 flood alerts, indicating that flooding is possible
It comes days after Storm Dudley left tens of thousands of homes without power and disrupted travel services – with forecasters warning Eunice will be more damaging.
Half-term plans disrupted
Friday’s extreme weather will also disrupt half-term plans for thousands of families, with major attractions including the London Eye, Legoland and Chessington World of Adventures confirming they will be closed on Friday.
A red weather warning was last in force during Storm Arwen in November, while several were issued in late February and early March 2018 during the so-called “Beast from the East”, which brought widespread heavy snow and freezing temperatures to many parts of the UK.