WIRRAL Council is warning people to take care as gale force winds look set to hit the region.

A red alert for the whole of the north west has been issued by the Met Office, meaning people should take action as exceptionally strong winds are forecast to hit the region.

The authority is urging residents and businesses to take extra precautions to keep safe.

It is warning residents to:

• Make sure any loose items in gardens or outside businesses are secured or taken down.

• Take care when driving.

  • Only make essential journeys and inform someone of your travel plans.

• Keep away from exposed areas of the coastline as there is a risk of waves and heavy spray coming over.

The authority's concerns are echoed by Merseyside Police who said in a statement: "Winds are predicted to increase from about 4pm this afternoon and are expected to last until approximately 10pm, with a potential for disruption on highways and near to coastal areas.

"We would like to reassure the public that together with partner agencies, there are tried and tested contingency plans in place for extreme weather conditions.

"Those plans have been implemented today and partner agencies will respond appropriately to all emergency calls and ensure recovery plans are in place to return to a state of normality as soon as possible.

"The public are asked to exercise caution during periods of severe weather and avoid unnecessary journeys.

"Officers are also reminding residents to avoid coastal areas during the high winds."

A spokesman for Liverpool Coastguard warned the public to stay away from the coast and apply “common sense”.

He said: "Stay away from the coastline today if you can but if you do see someone in trouble, call 999 and ask for the coastguard.”

A Met Office forecaster said: “Winds of this strength can cause widespread structural damage, bringing down trees and also leading to loss of power supplies. In addition, large waves are likely to affect some coasts.

“The public should take action to alter their travel arrangements during this spell of storm force winds.”

Although winds are expected to reach 80mph and could possible reach 100mph, the coastguard said they are not expecting events similar to those of December’s tidal surge.

“We haven’t got the tides this time because the tide is going out – it is just the wind.”

The alert is from 1.30pm today, Wednesday, until 9pm for Merseyside, Blackpool, Cumbria, and Lancashire.

But people should be aware that an amber warning for wind is also in place for Merseyside from 10am this morning to 11.50pm tonight and a yellow alert until 3am tomorrow.

The amber alert means people should 'be prepared' that transport is at risk of disruption as well as power supplies and large waves are likely to affect some coasts.