Widespread warnings issued across the internet in advance of Storm Eunice should be “a mitigating factor against people dying” compared with the Great Storm of 1987 when information was not so widely available, a weather expert has said.

Eighteen people were killed in the notorious storm almost 35 years ago, the worst of which hit in the early hours of the morning on October 16.

The Met Office has said “many more may have been hurt if the storm had hit during the day”.

The worst of Storm Eunice is forecast to hit in the daytime on Friday.

While loss of life in the latest extreme weather is “quite likely”, Dr Peter Inness said he is hopeful timely weather warnings have meant people changed their plans and chose to stay at home.

The meteorologist at the University of Reading told the PA news agency: “I think the fact that the Met Office have issued the warnings that they have, and they’ve done it far enough in advance that people can see those warnings, that by itself should be a mitigating factor against people dying.”

He said the availability of information should help keep people safer.

He said: “Warnings are broadcast across a huge number of platforms these days so unlike 1987 where, unless you watched the weather forecast on the telly you didn’t know what was going on, the internet these days means there are so many different places that people get the information.

“Everybody has probably been exposed to (the warnings) somehow.”

Asked if deaths can be expected as the storm rages, he said: “I don’t think it’s inevitable that there will be loss of life but it’s highly probable that somebody will be unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time as a tree falls or as a wall is blown over. It’s not inevitable but quite likely.”

Regarding the possibility of a so-called “sting jet” as part of Friday’s storm, he said it is difficult to make predictions in a “fast-moving situation”.

Speaking late morning on Friday, he said: “The most recent thinking is that a sting jet is quite likely, but because it’s almost like looking for a very small feature within a very big weather system – the weather system itself is 1,000kms across from one side to the other, the sting jet might be only 10, 20, 30kms across – until it actually happens you can’t say for definite.”

He said it could hit anywhere across the south of England or South Wales.

He said: “People across the south of England, from South Wales, south west England, central and southern England through to London, potentially could experience a sting jet. Before it actually happens, it’s almost impossible to say where it will occur.”