Major storm bears down on Western Europe

Severe weather conditions head towards southern UK threatening widespread disruption

Last Modified: 26 Oct 2013 11:06
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The latest weather system is still in its infancy in the western Atlantic [NOAA]

A major Atlantic storm is bearing down on the UK, reviving memories of a devastating storm which struck more than 25 years ago.

The latest weather system is still in its infancy in the western Atlantic.  As it approaches the UK it will intensify to hit Wales, central and southern England as well as northern France and the Low Countries. The peak of the storm will be experienced on Monday morning.

The UK’s Met Office has issued ‘amber’ warnings, the second highest level, for strong winds affecting the southern half of Wales, the Midlands and southern England. It is predicting winds of 95 to 130kph. (Winds in excess of 100kph are regarded as potentially damaging.)

Even stronger winds are expected along the south coast of England, the Channel Islands, Brest peninsula and around Calais. Here, winds may gust to as much as 160kph.

One of the additional hazards of an autumn storm is that many deciduous trees are still in leaf. Strong winds exert a greater force on trees and their roots than when they are denuded of leaves.

Falling trees present their own hazard to pedestrians and motorists but they may also disrupt road and rail communication. The latter may be particularly badly affected as more of the rail network has been electrified in recent years.

The storm system will be accompanied by very heavy rain with as much as 30mm in places. Although this may cause some localized flooding issues, it is the winds which are likely to cause significant disruption.

The worst of the weather will coincide with the morning commute for many people and there are likely to be serious interruptions to the transport network.

It is likely that many flights will be delayed or cancelled at Heathrow and Gatwick, the UK’s busiest airports, with likely knock-on effects at airports throughout the rest of the UK, northwestern Europe and North America.

All ferries across the English Channel, Bay of Biscay and Irish Sea are likely to be cancelled and many larger vessels will be heading for port.

Road links will be disrupted by the closure of elevated roads and bridges.

Falling trees and localized flooding may well take its toll on the country’s railway network.

On a more positive note, the storm does not occur at a time of particularly high tides, so coastal flooding will be very limited.

Although meteorologists do not usually give names to Atlantic storms, on mainland Europe it has been dubbed ‘Christian’.

If this storm really does prove to be memorable, it is more likely to be known as The St Jude’s Day Storm.  St Jude was one Jesus’ apostles and is the patron saint of lost causes.

It seems unlikely that this storm will be as severe as The Great Storm of 1987. This system caught meteorologists and emergency authorities unaware when it struck on October 15 and 16 1987. 18 people died; $2.4 billion of damage was caused and 15 million trees were destroyed.

Weather forecasts, warnings of bad weather and emergency procedures have all improved in the intervening 26 years plus this storm is still lacking some of the ingredients which combined to make The Great Storm so exceptional, but only time will tell!


Al Jazeera
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