Dozens of domestic and international flights were cancelled, and drivers faced treacherous conditions across the UK with floodwater, fallen trees and other debris closing roads.
Train lines also suffered with at least 10 rail companies warning people not to travel, and nearly 20 others told passengers to expect delays because of winds that could damage overhead wires and leave debris on tracks.
In one instance almost 200 passengers were evacuated onto another train after the Southeastern train service collided with a branch near Swanley in Kent.
In another, the 2.47pm service from Bedford to London St Pancras, passengers were told: “There is a trampoline caught in the overhead wires between Luton and London. We will be held here at Luton for the foreseeable future.” It was one of at least three trampoline-related incidents.
Buildings were damaged by heavy rain, and forecasters warned that flying debris could injure people or endanger lives. In Hawick, Scotland, raging floodwaters destroyed the Bridge House Guest House.
Sunday sport was also disrupted with rugby and football fixtures, including a match between Manchester City and West Ham in Manchester, all postponed.
The women’s Rugby Union Six Nations match between Scotland and England was also called off, with the men’s game having gone ahead the day before. A Scottish rugby spokesperson, said: “It is very disappointing to have to take this decision but given the extreme weather conditions and with supporters, players and staff safety being paramount it’s the correct decision.”
Top wind speeds of 97mph were recorded on the Isle of Wight, while Honister Pass in Cumbria experienced 177mm of rain across a 24 hour period – one and a half times the average rainfall for the month.
Severe flooding was reported across England with the River Irwell breaking its banks in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, and severe flooding striking the Cumbrian town of Appleby-in-Westmoreland.
Across the day more than 200 flood warnings were issued, while some 539,000 people suffered power cuts due to the heavy rains and winds.
The Humber Bridge was closed entirely for only the second time in its history, while ferry services were suspended for most of the day from Dover.
However, despite warnings from government agencies to stay indoors – and a call from the Environment Agencies to “avoid activities such as storm selfies” some appeared to underestimate the risk associated with the severe weather.
In one case a surfer who was declared missing in Hastings after his board washed ashore was found alive when he managed to swim to land more than five miles away. Two lifeboats and a helicopter had been dispatched to search for him, with video showing one vessel almost capsizing as it was lashed by waves.
Paul Hogg, who caught the moment on camera, told The Independent: “The weather was the worst I have seen in a very long time. The swirl of the sea was enormous. There is no way that surfer should have been out there.”
In northern France and Paris, fierce winds knocked out electricity, and authorities warned residents and tourists to stay indoors.
Ciara produced a mixed bag for those taking to the skies – with a British Airways flight appearing to have broken the fastest-ever subsonic New York-to-London crossing time after reaching speeds of more than 800mph on the back of a 200mph jetstream.
However, there was misery for passengers on a journey from Geneva, who endured a three-hour “flight to nowhere”, with two aborted landings at Gatwick airport and a fuel emergency, before landing in Lyon, just 61 miles from where they started.
A passenger on a flight from Florida said their plane’s landing at Gatwick Airport on Sunday morning was aborted three times before a final successful attempt.
Keith McDowall, 90, from Islington in north London, said: “I’ve never had anything quite like it. I admit I was scared. It was veering around and it kept shaking – the pilot did a very good job to land it.”
The Met Office has also issued a yellow warning of snow and ice for the northwest for Monday and Tuesday, and a yellow warning for wind in the south.
Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said: “Even through the early hours of Monday and throughout the day, it’s going to be windy. We have further warnings, there will be further showers and snow.
“While Storm Ciara is clearing away, that doesn’t mean we’re entering a quieter period of weather. It’s going to stay very unsettled.”
Additional reporting by agencies