Updated 3.45pm

A gregale storm in the next couple of days will produce gale-force winds, driving rain and strong seas that could cause flooding in coastal areas, the Met Office has warned.

"Storm Helios is set to hit the Maltese Islands late Wednesday as a depression that is presently located over Algeria moves across to Libya and makes its way towards the central Mediterranean," it said. 

"A strong wind warning is already in effect; however, the centre of the low-pressure system will be closest to the Maltese Islands between Thursday and Friday bringing more severe weather conditions."

The Met Office said that from early Thursday until Thursday night, very strong (force 7) Easterly winds are expected to sweep across the Maltese Islands, with gusts reaching up to 45 knots. Thursday’s strong winds will whip up very rough to high seas, with waves expected to reach up to five metres.

"The public is advised to avoid coastal areas due to the possibility of flooding," it warned. 

Rain showers are expected to become more frequent from Wednesday night, with the possibility that they will be thundery on Thursday.  

Earlier, a spokesperson for the Met Office said the storm would be similar to the battering Malta experienced in February four years ago.

Ferry crossings between Malta and Sicily have also been cancelled for Thursday and Friday because of the bad weather, Virtu Ferries said. 

The MFA on Wednesday postponed four games from the FA Trophy fixtures, a Women’s League fixture, and a National Youth League game.

Several events around the public holiday on Friday have also been cancelled.

Activities to mark the Feast of St Paul - shipwrecked in Malta during a storm - may be postponed. 

Exactly four years ago, Malta experienced its worst storm in decades, as gale-force winds wreaked havoc between February 23 and 24. Trees were uprooted, walls toppled, power lines damaged and seafronts flooded. In Xemxija, fish were flung out of the sea onto the promenade, leading to bizarre scenes of people braving the elements to collect them.

The weather had forced road closures across the whole island and Civil Protection Department officials were overwhelmed, even evacuating people from flooded residences.

The forecast according to the Malta Met Office. Photo: Malta International AirportThe forecast according to the Malta Met Office. Photo: Malta International Airport

The Met Office expects to issue wind and rain warnings that will be mostly orange. It said however that these storms are normal for this time of year.

Ghaqda tal-Pawlini president Douglas Mifsud said it was too early to say whether the inclement weather would have an impact on the traditional march and procession to mark the Feast of St Paul's Shipwreck on Friday.

A decision would only be taken on the day as things could change hourly, he said, adding that if there was any possibility to stick to the San Pawl Nawfragu programme and have the 5pm procession, this would be held.

In a Facebook post, the organisation said that if the event is cancelled on Friday, it will be held the following day. 

The last time it was cancelled due to the weather was over 10 years ago, the feast organisers said, insisting that the gale-force winds would only push it to the next day.

Among the activities that are being postponed is a vigil for justice for Sion Grech, outside the law courts, which has now been moved to February 23.

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